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Sweyta L

- Research Program Mentor

PhD at University of Pittsburgh


systems neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, addiction, neurodegeneration, psychiatric disorders, MATLAB programming, biostatistics


I am interested in how the brain works! I love understanding how the brain perceives stimuli in the environment and converts that to useful decisions about whether or not to act. For example, you are in the woods and see a bear coming towards you and you have to decide quickly whether to be still or run away. So much is going in the brain at that moment from perception to prediction to decision-making and action! I received my PhD in neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh and completed 6 years of postdoctoral research at Yale University. Currently, I am transitioning to industry in the role of a medical writer. I spend my free time hiking in nature, gardening, playing guitar, or reading a fiction book.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

How the state of the brain impacts neural processing and behavior

Let's imagine two scenarios. Scenario 1: you are sitting in the back of a classroom and the room is warm and cozy. As the teacher/professor is explaining a boring topic, your attention drifts in and out and you process little of what is being discussed. Scenario 2: Your crush is standing 10 feet away from you and whispering something to a friend. Their conversation is very faint but you process and remember every little detail that you can overhear. These are two different scenarios where your brain is in completely distinct internal attention/arousal states. These differences in brain states, which can be internally driven (sleepy or alert, sad or happy) or external (engaging in physical activity versus sitting on the couch), impact all aspects of neural processing from responsiveness to sensory stimuli to processing of the meaning of the stimuli to decision making. On a daily basis, our internal and external states fluctuate all the time and are, unknown to us, impacting all aspects of our lives. Interestingly, neural chemicals in the brain such as dopamine, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine play a big role in the state dependent modulation of brain activity. We can explore the role of these arousal states on neural processing and behavior by writing a review paper or hosting a series of podcasts or creating blogs on the topic. We can also do some fun at-home experiments on ourselves or family and friends, such as whether running or other physical exercise improves sensory perception or memory! Or maybe there is an activity that makes you happy and boosts your dopamine levels, like eating chocolate or shopping or playing video games, do those activities improve your sensory perception and performance?

Project 2

Coding skills

Highly skilled in Matlab, some experience with R and Python

Languages I know

Nepali (native), Hindi (conversational)

Teaching experience

I have mentored four undergraduate (one honors thesis student), one postgraduate and two graduate students in research settings during graduate school and postdoc. I was also a teaching assistant for the undergraduate course "Functional Neuroanatomy" at the University of Pittsburgh during graduate school and for the undergraduate course "Biological Basis of Behavior" at Mount Holyoke College while I was a senior.


Work experience

Yale University (2017 - 2023)
Postdoctoral Associate
Freelance Medical and Science Writer


Mount Holyoke College
BS Bachelor of Science (2011)
Neuroscience and Behavior
University of Pittsburgh
PhD Doctor of Philosophy (2017)

Completed Projects

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