The Grind ft. Phillip Loan

Posted On December 15, 2017
Categories News, The Grind

“Why Not?”: A Motto to Live by

What’s up with the brain? I get that it’s important to our bodies but why? What exactly is its purpose and why should we find this interesting? According to an article on the Piedmont Healthcare website, the brain can process information from 1mph to 268mph. Also, our brains are made up of 100,000 miles of blood vessels. We all have a brain, we all use it (some more than others), but do we know what makes it so complex? Currently, sophomore Phillip Loan is on a quest to answer that question. Throughout this read, you will get an inside look into the world of research, and, from the perspective of an undergraduate neuroscience major.

Confidence, poise, wisdom and reassurance – these are the traits that you sense while interacting with Sophomore, Phillip Loan. Meeting the requirements for a neuroscience and pre-med major, volunteering for both Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory Hospital, executive board member of three student organizations, tumbling as a hobby, and Peer Research Ambassador would be borderline strenuous for the average student. But in the words of Phillip, he’s just “your everyday guy who likes to say, ‘Why Not?!’ to a challenge.”

Over the course of Phillip’s life, he’s always embraced the unknown. As a first-generation college student, Phillip’s mission is to lead by example. Inspired by the neurological contributions of Ben Carson and countless others, Phillip desires to leave his mark for future generations to study.

During our sit-down, Phillip expressed how his obsession with the brain began in childhood. He stated, “I’m captivated with the brain because it controls everything about us, even our emotions.”

Phillip said that he loves problem-solving, so he and neuroscience were the perfect match due to the brain containing an infinite amount of information. “I haven’t considered any other major or profession because I just knew that being a neurologist was my purpose. The brain is a puzzle, and I plan on finding the answers.” Phillip and I laughed when he added, sarcastically, “that most of our global and daily problems could be resolved by us simply using our brains.”

One of the leading neurological issues that Phillip believed should gain more attention is mental health. “Sometimes anything dealing with someone’s mental state is looked down upon and labeled as taboo, here in America. What makes neurological research so cool is that we can learn from other countries’ studies and how they deal with issues such as mental health and implement those very same strategies.”

While Phillip and I were discussing the importance of analyzing neuroscience, he exclaimed that this couldn’t happen without first conducting research.

For someone who now serves as a Peer Research Ambassador, you would think that he was immediately gung-ho about research, but Phillip jokingly expressed that wasn’t quite the case.

“I know this might sound weird, but I was never interested in research,” said Phillip.

After reading weekly e-mails from Undergraduate Research Program Coordinator, Jacob English, Phillip’s interest in undergraduate research began to grow. “I would constantly see all of the research opportunities from the e-mails that Jacob (Mr. English) sent out. After a while, I knew that I could do it, so I said, ‘Why not’ “.

Once Phillip met with Mr. English, he was able to make his next move as a researcher. He connected with his former mentor, Dr. Chris Conway. Under the guidance of Dr. Conway, Phillip worked in the Neuro Learn lab. Phillip expressed, “When I was working in the lab, I became a better scientist and researcher by actually doing the work instead of just learning.”

During his time with Dr. Conway, Phillip learned strategies that helped strengthen his skills as both a researcher and a future neurosurgeon. Phillip became well-versed with statistical analyses, FMRI imaging, and brain scans. He stated, “I learned about areas and functions of the brain that I never knew existed.”
Dr. Conway helped Phillip prepare for his next challenge – GSURC. Phillip told me that both his former mentor, Dr. Conway and his peers pushed him to participate in GSURC. “After talking with them, I knew that I could do it, so once again I said, “Why not?”

Phillip described how Dr. Conway helped advise how to sharpen his presentation skills, develop and apply his research questions, and strategies to find answers. The biggest lesson that Phillip gained from this experience was never to give up, and that “failure is okay, if not required in research.”

Phillip stated that through failure, a researcher could experience their greatest success. Hence, sometimes “contradicting results can lead to amazing discoveries.”

Later throughout the interview, Phillip gave some tips for his peers who weren’t too sure on how to begin their journey as a researcher. Phillip broke down the process into four steps:

Number one: Reach out to your professors.
Number two: Keep pushing, find out what specific topic interests you.
Number three: Remain persistent.
Number four: Find Jacob (Mr. English)! If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.

Thanks to these four steps, Phillip is now researching at the center of Molecular and Transitional Medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Chunying Li, where he is currently studying proteins involved in cardiovascular disease and cancer, along with stem cell therapeutics. Loan was also recently selected into GSU’s Initiative for Maximizing Student Development program funded by the National Institute of Health and led by Dr. Kyle Frantz.

In closing, Phillip embodies what we undergrads aim to be. Research sometimes can come off as a scary topic – too much work, time-consuming, and you may even question what benefits you could get out of this. Hopefully, while reading this article, you were able to receive a tease of the endless possibilities that are waiting for you. We at The Grind and the Georgia State Honors College are here to help you reach your potential and to leave your mark on this planet. With that said, sometimes the first step is as simple as approaching research with the mindset of “Why not?”.

About the Author
Caleb Smith is currently a junior at Georgia State University. He is a Journalism major with a minor in African-American studies. If you would like to find more of his works check out his A&L podcast, “Necessary Knowledge & Nonsense” on YouTube provided by the GSU Signal. You can also follow Caleb on Instagram @Mindofsolomon.