Meet Megan Whitley, a UNT biology major and dancer who dreams of becoming a physician. She was also the first-ever recipient of the 2023-24 Students Helping Students Scholarship, a scholarship entirely funded by graduating seniors who are eager to give back to future generations of students.
"I was incredibly honored to receive the SHS award and thankful for the added financial support," said Megan. "This scholarship has allowed me to finish my last semester of my undergraduate degree debt-free. Without the added stress of paying for tuition, I have been able to work fewer hours, focus on my studies, and have time to participate in UNT events and performances, such as dancing in the College of Music's upcoming opera production of Cendrillon."
Megan, who is also minoring in chemistry and dance, said she pursed her education at UNT because of the quality of both the science and arts programs she was interested in. "I enjoy the opportunity to participate in STEM-related research, while at the same time performing in the arts with the UNT dance department."
Propelled by her interest in neuroscience, Megan was delighted to learn that Dr. Nicoladie Tam of the UNT biology department was looking for a research assisant in this field. Their lab research makes use of near-infrared spectroscopy and fMRI to record signals in the brain.
"With the use of recorded concentrations of hemoglobin and oxyhemoglobin from the Motor and Prefrontal Cotecies, we analyze movement-related neural signals," said Megan. "I have enjoyed working with Dr. Tam to develop alternative analysis techniques that account for neural physiology and better represent neural activity."
Megan and Dr. Tam hope that their techniques will provide a clear representation of neural firing that can produce movement, which would open a whole world of possibilities. "If this can be done, we hope to implement this technique in technology that would allow paralyzed patients to operate wheelchairs, or move prosthetic limbs with their minds," she explained.
In addition to Dr. Tam, Megan has also been mentored by Todd Lang in the COS Health Professions Office, since she intends to apply to medical school for the coming year. "The process is quite daunting," she said. "I have greatly appreciated having the support and expertise of Mr. Lang to help guide me through this process."
The Students Helping Students scholarship was not the first Megan has been awarded while at UNT. She's recieved numerous scholarships from both the College of Science and the Biological Sciences department, as well as an Undergraduate Research Fellowship last year. Her favorite thing about her time at UNT so far has been meeting new people.
"I greatly enjoy getting to know my classmates in the dance department, working in the research lab, and participating in performances," she said. "I will cherish the friendships I have made here for my whole life."
To learn more about Students Helping Students and our graduating seniors' committment to giving back, please visit https://cos.unt.edu/shs