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Stand Out Student: Alyssa Nielsen

Publication date

January 17, 2018 3:45 PM


Jake Ward

Tulane Sophomore, Alyssa Nielsen.

Alyssa studies Neuroscience and Dance, and brings her passion for these subjects to her work as an RA in Weatherhead.


Alyssa Nielsen is a Tulane sophomore, who lived in the Honors Residential Learning Community (RLC) in Wall Residence Hall as a first-year, and is now a Resident Advisor (RA) in the second-year Honors RLC in Weatherhead Hall.  She is grateful for the opportunities the Honors Program offers to students to get to know professors and their research, and to develop the skills to conduct her own research projects.

As a first-year Honors student, Alyssa lived in the Honors RLC in Wall, and took the Honors colloquia in fall and spring.  She enjoyed both courses as they helped her to get to know many professors in different fields, and learn more about how research works.  She also got to know Gary Dohanich, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, through her involvement with his Gray Matter Society in Wall, one of a number of academic societies run by professors and Resident Advisors in the RLC.  She found her prior relationship with Dr. Dohanich helpful when she came to take his class last semester.

Alyssa studies Neuroscience and Dance, and brings her passion for these subjects to her work as an RA in Weatherhead.  Programming in the Honors RLCs is often academically-oriented; one of Alyssa’s events last semester was a panel on healthy living which brought together professors from dance and neuroscience.  She relishes the prospect of not only living in an Honors community once more, but also organizing events like this and building the academic community.

In her position as co-President of the Tulane University Neuroscience Association (TUNA), Alyssa performs a similar capacity.  She organizes academically-oriented events, and, in addition, works to get to know other members of the group.  Naturally, building relationships with other students is also central to her job as an RA.

Ever since she came to Tulane, Alyssa has been aiming to write an Honors Thesis in Dance during her last year.  Throughout much of her involvement with the Honors Program, she has been looking toward this end goal.  Getting to know professors and their research processes in a wide range of fields is something that Alyssa has found particularly valuable.

Alyssa hopes that the thesis, and her wider involvement with Honors, will help prepare her for medical school, and beyond.  Though her thesis will be in Dance, rather than Neuroscience, and she views it partly as an opportunity to conclude her studies in this subject, it will also help her to improve her writing skills and learn about long-term research.  These skills will prove extremely useful for her later, whether she ends up working in research more permanently, or not.

Alyssa advises that younger students take advantage of being part of the Honors Program.  She says that taking Honors courses, as well as attending panels and other events in Weatherhead and Wall, helped her to meet professors and think more clearly about her own academic goals.  Living in the Honors RLCs in Wall and now Weatherhead provides her with an academic and social community, which helps her to keep up on her school work and relax when she needs to.  Most of all, she argues, students should follow their academic passions, not simply things that may appear the “most impressive.”  That is what Alyssa has tried to do, and she has been quite successful.