Two young researchers in McGovern Institute labs, Joseph Itiat and Sam Merrow, are the newest members of the K. Lisa Yang Postbaccalaureate Scholar Program.
Funded by philanthropist Lisa Yang, the K. Lisa Yang Postbaccalaureate Scholar Program provides two years of paid laboratory experience, mentorship, and education to recent college graduates from backgrounds underrepresented in neuroscience. This year, two young researchers in McGovern Institute labs, Joseph Itiat and Sam Merrow, are the recipients of the Yang postbac program.
Itiat moved to the United States from Nigeria in 2019 to pursue a degree in psychology and cognitive neuroscience at Temple University. Today, he is a Yang postbac in John Gabrieli’s lab studying the relationship between learning and value processes and their influence on future-oriented decision-making. Ultimately, Itiat hopes to develop models that map the underlying mechanisms driving these processes.
“Being African, with limited research experience and little representation in the domain of neuroscience research,” Itiat says, “I chose to pursue a postbaccalaureate
research program to prepare me for a top graduate school and a career in cognitive neuroscience.”
Merrow first fell in love with science while working at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Arizona during high school. After graduating from Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts, Merrow joined Guoping Feng’s lab as a Yang postbac to pursue research on glial cells and brain disorders. “As a queer, nonbinary, LatinX person, I have not met anyone like me in my field, nor have I had role models that hold a similar identity to myself,” says Merrow.
“My dream is to one day become a professor, where I will be able to show others that science is for anyone.”
Previous Yang postbacs include Alex Negron, Zoe Pearce, Ajani Stewart, and Maya Taliaferro.