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Debora Calderon '19

Seeing neuroscience's healing potential

Debora Calderon '19 remembers closing her eyes to take in the moment while she stood amid research posters from around the world, including one from her own team. Last fall, the aspiring neuroscientist presented research from her summer internship at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego.

"The simple fact that I was able to be there and exchange ideas with brilliant minds meant that what I have been dreaming about for so long could actually be within reach," she says.   

Her dream – to help people with depression and trauma – took root as a teenager when she met a woman who worked as a sex-trafficking whistleblower in India. 

"Her stories of imprisoned minors and the abuses they suffered ignited a spark within me, and I began to intensively research post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other neurological disorders," Calderon says.

Calderon chose to double major in biology and psychology at Whitworth in order to pursue her interest in neuroscience. According to her, "Neuroscience is a pathway to therapies that can potentially free individuals to reach their potential."

Calderon's relationships within those departments have been a major part of her college experience. "Here, the same people I meet with for Bible study sit next to me in class the next day," she says. "It is incredible to know that I have an amazing support system wherever I go."

That support system includes her professors. "At Whitworth, I have been able to foster incredible relationships with each of my professors," she says. "These relationships have been the catalysts that have allowed me to gain entry into research and pursue my interests."

With guidance from her professors, Calderon secured a research internship last summer at the University of Florida. She was then chosen from the group of interns to present at the conference. The internship helped shape Calderon's interests as she now applies to graduate school. "My firsthand experience in the lab opened my horizons to different studies and ideas that I would have never known about," she says.

Driven by her faith, Calderon is considering graduate programs in neuropsychology and clinical neuroscience.

"Jesus' heart was always to heal and love the least of these," she says. "As a Christian, I simply carry on this vision. I want to show individuals who are suffering from unimaginable fear that they are absolutely seen and loved and that there is hope for change."

Debora describes her experience moving from a homeschool background to college life at Whitworth.