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Eric James '11C

Eric James '11C received the award for best oral presentation in neuroscience at the 2014 national meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), held this past October in Los Angeles, CA.

A former McNair Scholar who majored in psychology at St. John’s, James is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in neuroscience at Brown University. He served with the US Marine Corps before beginning his undergraduate studies.

A native New Yorker, James described his St. John's experience as enlightening. "Whether in my psychology, biology, philosophy, or theology courses,” he said, “I was constantly challenged to understand the topic at hand, how varied topics intertwine with one another, and how the facts and theories that encompass them all fit into the broader context of the world around us."

Being a McNair scholar also was pivotal in James’s development as both a student and scientist. "The formal aspects of the program prepared me for the rigors of pursuing a doctoral degree via workshops and seminars," he said.

Just as academic life helped build discipline, James added, his time in the Marine Corps instilled a sense of responsibility. “The experience fosters a sense of obligation,” he observed. “It entails a willingness to sacrifice one’s life for a greater cause than self—to defend the men and women around you, your country, and the freedoms so many of us take for granted."

James’s SACNAS presentation focused on how prenatal exposure to valproic acid (a commonly prescribed antiseizure medication) causes autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders in children. Through this research, he hopes to identify and test potential therapeutic targets.

Upon completing his doctorate, James will seek an academic postdoctoral research position, with the aim of attaining a tenure-track faculty position at a research-intensive institution of higher learning.

"My time at St. John's convinced me that education comes with a responsibility,” he said. “We ultimately must make sacrifices to become as learned as our minds allow, and to share the knowledge we have acquired with others."