Student Spotlight August 2013
Dr. Brynn Dombroski received her AA degree in Psychology and her AS degree in Criminal Justice Technology from the College of Central Florida. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Psychology with a minor in Marketing from Florida Gulf Coast University. Dr. Dombroski received her Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Prior to attending UofL, Dr. Dombroski worked with autistic children and adults as a behavioral therapist for Eden Autism Services of Florida. Dr. Dombroski’s dissertation involved the investigation of anthropometric measurements of normal brain development using in vivo MRIs from the NIH Pediatric MRI data repository under the supervision of her mentor, Dr. Manuel F. Casanova, in collaboration with Dr. Ayman S. El-Baz in the Bio-Imagining Laboratory. In addition to her dissertation research, Dr. Dombroski served as Key Personnel in an Ambient Prism Lenses Treatment Study evaluating high functioning autistic individuals in the Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory of Dr. Tato Sokhadze in collaboration with the Center for Visual Management in Tarrytown, New York and the Autism Research Institute in San Diego, California. Dr. Dombroski also served as Key Personnel in a Face Recognition Processing Study administering a face matching game to high functioning autistic individuals and control subjects with fellow researchers from the Computer Vision and Image Processing Laboratory.
Specific areas of research (how you chose this research, why it interested you):
My specific area of research stemmed from my initial research in and clinical experience working with autistic individuals. Investigating the differences between neurotypical individuals and autistic individuals led me to question just how reliable these findings truly are if we do not have a measureable degree of normal variability between neurotypical individuals?
Long term goals/ aspirations:
I have been and will continue to pursue my dream of opening my own mental, physical, and emotional well-being center to help whole families using a multifaceted approach to wellness and nutrition. Part of making this dream a reality required obtaining my PhD. Now that I have accomplished this goal, my dream is finally within reach.
How would you describe your area of study/ specific research to your grandmother:
We used biomedical imaging techniques to measure specific anthropometric indices of the human brain in over 400 MRI scans of normal developing children between the ages of 4 and 23 to quantify normal variability of brain development by age and gender.
How do you think this advanced degree will change your role in society?
The experience in obtaining my Ph.D. has been invaluable to me in many ways. I think my role in society will shift from being viewed as a smart individual with good ideas to a credible professional with research and clinical experience.
What accomplishment, academic or otherwise, are you most proud of?
At this point in my life, I would have to say that I am most proud of obtaining my Ph.D. Looking back at my entire academic career is like standing on top of Mount Everest looking back to see how far I’ve climbed since graduating high school. There is no question that the mountainous terrain involved in obtaining your subsequent degrees is a unique path designed to build character, strength, and perseverance in anyone who is up for the challenge.
What made you go into this field of study?
As a literacy tutor for the AmeriCorps program, I worked one-on-one and in small groups with 7th grade students who were reading on a 2nd grade reading level. I only worked with these students for 1 hour each day per week; yet, the gains that these kids all achieved in just one year’s time as a result of my efforts were amazing. It also led me to believe that if these students could receive the same kind of fostering that I provided in literacy tutoring in other areas of their life, that they could potentially break the mold that they were in and become anything other than the stigma that they were expected to be. This thought fueled my interest for learning about the structure and function of the brain in relation to learning and memory; which ultimately led to my academic career path in psychology and neuroscience.
What was your favorite part of the graduate school experience?
My favorite part of the graduate school experience was that there were many opportunities for advancing your own knowledge and interests outside of your field of study by attending various grand rounds lectures, seminars, conferences and workshops offered through your own department, other departments, as well as the Delphi Center and SIGS.
What do you feel is the greatest challenge that graduate students face and how have you dealt with this challenge?
I feel that the greatest challenge graduate students face is reading enough background on your topic of research to not only get a comfortable grasp on what has been done and what is still left to be explored in your field without becoming overwhelmed or getting lost in the literature, but to also be able to succinctly explain the background to a lay person outside of your own field. I don’t think that graduate students realize how often this happens to other graduate students across all disciplines. I think most of us feel that we are alone in our struggles and are embarrassed at not being able to get through an article without having to research several terms, techniques, and other references just to understand it. There is a great deal of pressure to become an expert in your field, yet, there are far more articles to read than can ever be read in relation to your study. I found that talking to other graduate students about this challenge helped to ease my stress and come up with new strategies for staying on topic without going off on tangents both during my reading and my writing.
My family lives in Florida. Although I don’t get to see my mom and my brother that often, we remain close through weekly phone conversations and e-mail. We are a faith believing family with strong values, morals and ethics who keep each other accountable to achieving our goals. I know that my mom and my brother are my most faithful supporters.