Jordi Martinez

Meet Jordi Martinez, a 4th year neuroscience major. Jordi is a part of the Louis Stokes California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP) program, an NSF-funded program whose goal is to enhance diversity in the STEM fields by supporting students from historically underrepresented groups. Jordi is also part of the UCLA neuroscience department Scheibel Scholars program for the upcoming 2023-2024 academic year. We had the opportunity to learn more about Jordi’s research experience at UCLA:

1. How did you first get involved in your research project?

I joined my lab in fall of 2022 by applying to a position posted on the UCLA Undergraduate Research Portal. At UCLA finding any research position is tough since labs spot fill up almost immediately. Throughout the summer between my second and third year, I was cold emailing several professors whose labs I had been interested but had no luck finding any openings. When I heard about the research portal, I realized it was a super convenient way for me to find available research positions. I filtered by neuroscience and psychology labs and found a position in the Brain Connectivity and Cognition Laboratory located in the Semel Institute for Neuroscience. I wrote a cover letter, sent in my resume, and was later called in for an interview. To this day I am working in the same lab on a diffusion MRI project investigating the structural connectivity of a child born with callosal agenesis. I am preparing to submit a first author paper for review by the end of 2023.

2. How would you describe your research experience at UCLA?

I would describe my research at UCLA as demanding but very rewarding. My lab trusts me to handle my project on my own schedule, allowing me to come into the lab as I please and even work remotely. This gives me greater independence when it comes to how I plan my research around other responsibilities like class and clubs but also requires me to be self-sufficient. For example, I have learned to constantly read the background literature in my field to understand the greater context of my research. I try to read at least 1 paper every time I come into the lab so I can gather ideas and plan what to investigate next. I am also incredibly lucky to have two great mentors in my lab: Dr. Lucina Uddin and Dr. Jason Nomi. They guide all the undergraduates in the lab not just with their projects but also with larger career planning in the sciences. Good mentorship continues to be imperative for my success in research here at UCLA.

3. What is one piece of advice you have for other students thinking about getting involved in research?

For students wanting to get involved at research here at UCLA, my biggest piece of advice is don’t wait! It is never too early to start research even as a first-year student. One regret I have was waiting till the end of my second year to apply to labs. As I mentioned before, it is not easy to find open positions and you will most likely get turned down a lot. However, that’s completely normal and is by no means a reflection of your ability to do research here at UCLA. This advice goes for any research program or scholarship as well. Even if you think your chances are minute, apply, apply, apply!

4. Have you attended a conference before? If so, can you describe your experience on preparation, presenting, etc.?

In spring of 2023 I presented my research at the Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference and the Semel Undergraduate Research Conference. It was my first time creating a poster presentation of my research, so I was nervous but excited to show what I had done.  Creating the poster and preparing the oral presentation taught me how to succinctly explain my research to a non-expert audience which is an essential skill for any researcher. I learned how to prepare the classic 3-minute elevator pitch that highlights the important aspects of my work while keeping the audience engaged. I am currently preparing for another presentation about my research as part of the Louis Stokes California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP) program.

5. What are your future career goals?

After graduation, I plan to take a gap year to continue research through either a post-baccalaureate program or research assistant position. During this year I will also prepare my application to apply to a combined MD/PhD program for neuroscience. I hope to one day run my own clinical lab investigating neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.