“Gustavus Adolphus College has several frequently used phrases that come to mind when I think of Matt Broschard: Make it your own. Learn how to learn. Get involved,” psychological science professor Lauren Hecht said. The advice has been taken to heart by Broschard, a Gustavus senior who recently spent the month of January as a research observer at Vanderbilt University.
During his four-week experience at Vanderbilt, Broschard focused on observing lab projects in Dr. Sean Polyn’s Computational Memory Lab. The lab focuses on studying memory using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) technology to create models and help theorize how people memorize and recall information. The January experience was made possible in part by the Ivey Psychological Science Student Research Fund at Gustavus.
Broschard’s project studied memory by examining an EEG dataset taken during a free recall experiment. He analyzed the different waveform components on the EEG readout and eliminated extra data that resulted from seemingly inconsequential movements such as eye blinks. “The technique I used allows these unwanted components to be eliminated from the overall waveform, so when we reconstruct the waves the data is much cleaner,” Broschard explained. In addition to the hands-on learning, his January experience allowed him to enhance his programming skills and learn more about how a large research university operates.
A double major in biology and psychological science, Broschard’s classroom and lab experience at Gustavus provided him the skills to be successful at Vanderbilt. Though he’s had many mentors during his time on campus, he highlighted Hecht as key to his success. “Her Perception and Attention Lab has led me to opportunities like the Gordon A. Braatz Psychological Science Research Grant and the Presidential Faculty-Student Collaboration Grants,” Broschard said. “The resulting hands-on experience has been incredibly helpful.”
A native of Eden Prairie, Minn., Broschard met Hecht as a first-year student in her Cognitive Psychology course. The two worked together throughout his time at Gustavus, including two summer research experiences. Currently, Hecht is advising Broschard in his senior honors research project and thesis as well as the graduate school application process.
“The great thing about working with Matt is his curiosity and self-motivation. He always has great questions; you can tell he has done his ‘homework’ before talking with me,” Hecht said. “His tenacity has really made all the difference. Matt sought advice, but he was willing to put in a lot of his own effort.”
Although Broschard’s focus has been in the sciences, he took advantage of the options a liberal arts education gave him by joining the Gustavus Wind Orchestra (GWO) as a percussionist, becoming the GWO president, and taking many classes outside of his majors. “This is what a liberal arts education is all about — incorporating different schools of thought and perspectives to create more holistic understandings. It also shows ambition and flexibility as a candidate for future work,” Broschard explained.
As Broschard prepares for graduation this spring, he offered some advice for fellow Gustavus students: “Start early. Gustavus provides a great environment to develop strong connections with professors. Take advantage of this. Meet with professors outside of class to talk about their research and how to get involved.”
After graduation, Broschard plans to attend graduate school and work towards a doctorate in psychology with a focus on the cognitive neuroscience of memory. While he enjoyed his time at Vanderbilt this January, he is excited to be back on campus for his last semester. “I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again and finishing my four years here on a high note,” Broschard said.
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