University of Vermont

Graduate College

Student Profile: Eric Gonzalez

PhD candidate, Neuroscience

Eric Gonzalez

Eric Gonzalez, a native of Wood-Ridge, New Jersey, is a third year doctoral candidate in UVM’s Neuroscience Graduate Program. The IMPACT team recently caught up with Eric to find out a little more about him and his chosen area of study.

IMPACT: Eric, tell our readers a little bit about yourself…

Eric: After attending high school in New Jersey, I earned a B.S. in Neuroscience from Muhlenberg College, which is in Allentown, Pennsylvania. While attending Muhlenberg College, I became actively involved in the scientific community and was fortunate to join the laboratory of a faculty member in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Without any formal scientific training, I became integrated into the laboratory by taking part in weekly meetings and colony management. My experiences at Muhlenberg College sparked an enduring curiosity in the creativity and freedom afforded to those in biomedical sciences and, in particular, the interdisciplinary field of neuroscience.

IMPACT: It seems as if interdisciplinary areas of studies are a priority for many universities, including UVM. Did you attend UVM’s graduate college because of that?

Eric: I first came to UVM to work as a research technician in the labs of Drs. Rae Nishi and Felix Eckenstein. I wanted to continue my work as a junior scientist and this was a great opportunity for me.

While working in their labs, I observed the necessity of communication and collaboration in biomedical research. I chose to continue my graduate education at the University of Vermont because it fosters this type of scientific community and offers access to the resources necessary to excel in my pre-doctoral studies. So I applied to and was accepted into the Neuroscience Graduate Program in 2011.

 IMPACT: You are now into your third year of grad school at UVM, and like many graduate students you are supported by a graduate assistantship. Are you focused more on teaching or research?

Eric: Both, really. To date, my time in the graduate program includes a mix of studying, teaching and research. The required coursework was demanding but provided a fundamental understanding of the human body at both a macroscopic and microscopic scale. I was fortunate to be designated a teaching assignment in a class that I have previously taken. Teaching was a completely different experience because of the breadth of knowledge needed to instruct the students. With only one more teaching assignment left, much of my time is now focused on my dissertation research. I have the opportunity to expand the scope of my lab, to develop new collaborations and to personalize my project. Much of this would not be possible if I didn’t have the resources at the University of Vermont and an advisor willing to explore novel avenues.

IMPACT: We hear over and over from our students how important their advisor is. It's great that you have such a strong working relationship with yours. Has your work led to any awards or published research?

Eric: I am proud to say that it has led to both. I received a research supplement to promote diversity in health-related research from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) to pursue studies that address the mechanisms underlying the development of lower urinary tract symptoms with inflammation. The supplement not only provides salary support for the duration of my tenure as a graduate research assistant, but also supports travel to national conferences and supports supplies to augment experimental freedom and creativity. With this financial stability, I was able to present at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego, California. Attending the conference allowed me to network amongst a scientific community with similar interests and offered an opportunity to intellectually contribute to the field of neuroscience as a whole.

And in terms of publications, I have a first author research article in the American Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology, a first author review article in press in BioMed Research International and a first author invited review article under consideration in the American Journal of Physiology.

 IMPACT: That conference must have been a very rewarding experience, and congratulations on your publications. As a third year PhD candidate, you still have a ways to go in your studies, but assuming all goes well, what would you like to do after graduating?

Eric: I am currently completing my studies in the laboratory of Dr. Margaret Vizzard and plan to propose my dissertation in the upcoming months. Following the completion of my studies, I plan to apply for an academic postdoctoral research fellowship that can foster independence, creativity and productivity. Contingent on the "success" of my pre- and postdoctoral studies, I ultimately hope to secure extramural research funding and establish an independent research laboratory. Despite these ambitious goals, my advisor at the University of Vermont offers an environment to become an effective academic scientist that will provide a basis for future progression in the field of neuroscience.

IMPACT: I’m sure that our readers, like me, wish you the best of luck in your studies!