In this alumni spotlight, we meet Dave Tosto, Class of 2011 and first-year Behavioral Neuroscience graduate student at the University of West Virginia. Students -- Dave has also said that you are welcome to contact him if you have any questions about grad school: David.Tosto@mail.wvu.edu.
How has grad school life been treating you?
After two weeks, I am already thinking things like "this is insane", "what was I thinking?", and "the grad school secret police are going to find out that I somehow made it in here and apprehend me in my sleep." But there is probably no grad student out there who doesn't have thoughts like that. Juggling my classes, teaching PSYC 101, and all the lab work I have to do is going to put my abilities to manage my time and not crack under pressure to the test.
That does sound like a busy schedule! What is the lab work like?
Working in the Alzheimer's research lab is really interesting. Just some of the things I've been doing in the time since I got here are running behavioral sessions to train mice to make nosepoke responses, reading up on microelectrode arrays, learning how to write programs to control operant chambers, running electrophoresis on DNA extracted from tail samples, and collecting mouse brains (the hardest part is getting the brain out without breaking off the olfactory bulb). I get to use beakers, micropipettes, graduated cylinders, and wear a lab coat, so you know it's real science! They even gave one with my name embroidered on it (see attached picture) - how cool is that? This is pretty neat too - http://psychology.wvu.edu/faculty_staff/graduate_student_directory/dave_tosto - it makes me feel all official.
How does the program at WVU compare to what you experienced at CNU?
Even though WVU as a whole is a much bigger school than CNU, behavioral neuroscience only has four students, which means I'll still get a lot of personal attention. The doctoral program is intense, as it would have to be if they really are serious about wanting me to finish in four years. Their tentative schedule has students proposing a master's thesis this fall, and defending it in the spring, which doesn't leave me much time to sit around twiddling my thumbs. Fortunately I was prepared well for what they expect of me. At this point, it looks like my thesis is going to be on the behavioral effects of injecting particular neurotransmitter agonists and antagonists into mice with the Alzheimer's transgene that have been trained to make chains of responses in an operant chamber.
That is a very fast program! Soon you’ll be able to come back and give guest lectures on all the things that you are discovering. Have you seen anything about the new facilities that we have?
From what my friends who are still at CNU have been saying, there is as much construction as there ever was, if not more. I probably won't even recognize the campus when I come back. It's a bit sad to me to think that Wingfield is gone. Maybe some of the professors who taught there feel a little nostalgia toward it too, but I'm pretty sure that Dr. Velkey danced on the pile of rubble.
There are a lot of mixed feelings about seeing Wingfield torn down. In the next year, however, Phase 2 of the new building will be coming online which means huge new lab spaces and more state-of-the-art equipment. You will definitely have to stop by when you get a chance -- and I mean it about having you give a lecture or two in the new neuroscience classrooms! For now, best of luck and keep us updated about how you’re doing!
Great to hear from you, and I'm looking forward to seeing how much the program has grown when I come back to visit.