Fueled by a lifelong desire to serve those less fortunate, St.
John’s psychology major Karina Castro ’13C spent
her last undergraduate summer as a research fellow for The
Leadership Alliance Summer Research–Early Identification
The Alliance is a national consortium of leading research and
teaching colleges, universities, and private industries that help
prepare underrepresented students for careers as outstanding
leaders and role models in academia, business, and the public
Over the course of eight weeks, Castro conducted clinical
neuroscience research at Brown University under the mentorship of
Suzanne de la Monte, M.D., M.P.H. Working in de la Monte’s lab,
Castro studied the effects of chronic fetal alcohol syndrome and
how it is transmitted from parent to child. The highly competitive
program provided her with a stipend, housing, and extensive
assistance with graduate school applications.
Following graduation, Castro plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. degree,
which she hopes to put to good use treating underprivileged
populations. Traditionally, the combined degree takes nearly 10
years, but Castro isn’t daunted. "I want to do something meaningful
with my life," she said.
A native of Lawrence, MA, Castro chose St. John's because of the
University's emphasis on service. "Their focus on developing a
strong social conscience appealed to me. I want to help the poor. I
have no interest in playing on Instagram," she stressed.
Castro credits her parents (both natives of the Dominican Republic)
with instilling in her a desire to help others. "My mom is a
doctor, and my dad is an architect. When I was little, my mother
visited sick children in the areas where my father worked. I've
been exposed to that sensibility since I was three."
At St. John's, Castro says she "fell in love" with neuroscience and
that everything fell into place for her when she took a
neuropsychology class with Robin Wellington, Ph.D.,
assistant professor of psychology. "That class was an epiphany for
me," she said. Understanding the underlying physical reasons why
people suffer from illnesses like depression fascinated her.
"I decided that I could help people through a career in the
physical sciences," Castro observed. "I want to be a doctor and
work in either a hospital setting or a nonprofit, and I think I'd
like to work with children."
Castro also credits Scyatta Wallace, Ph.D.,
associate professor of psychology, with opening her eyes to the
many service-oriented careers in her field. "Thanks to her, I got
myself together,” she said. “She really motivated me."
As a Latina woman, Castro hopes that she can serve as a role model
for those who follow in her footsteps. "My responsibility is to lay
some groundwork for those young girls coming after me,” she said.
“I want to see us represented in the biological sciences and
possibly start an organization that promotes minority
representation, like the Leadership Alliance. As long as I can
fulfill that love of science while helping others, I'll be