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Lucas Silva

Lucas Silva: Choosing Between Neurosurgery and Biomedical Engineering

Growing up in a family of doctors and engineers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Lucas Silva developed an interest in the medical and engineering fields at an early age. Two years ago, when he was a freshman at The British School of Rio de Janeiro, he became fascinated by the complexity of the brain and thought he might one day become a neurosurgeon. As a junior, he realized neurosurgery emphasizes science over mathematics, another one of his favorite subjects. He looked to Columbia University’s New York City Summer Immersion program to help him decide between biomedical engineering and neurosurgery.

What did you study in the program?

I took the course Introduction to Neuroscience, where we studied about the functions of the parts of the human brain, how it is adapted, how information is passed on, and how memory works among other interesting information. We also studied how action potentials were triggered and went to the research center of NYU to see how it worked with microscopes and actual neurons. To end the course, me and my group did a study on the effect hypocalcemia on the brain. Hypocalcemia is a condition where there is too little calcium in the blood. Our group decided to specialize in hypocalcemia created after a traumatic brain injury (TBI). I found it extremely interesting to work on it since this project has made me a more mature researcher.

"Columbia’s program overall was the most fulfilling and enriching experience I have ever participated in."

What was your most memorable experience at Columbia?

One of the main takeaways from the program was to be able to meet people from all around the world who had the same interest as I had in neuroscience and similar fields. To be able to work with them was truly fulfilling and from it I learned abilities of interaction and teamwork that will help me. Also, I learned how to truly read and comprehend scientific papers. This was particularly special for me since I was always very interested in them but never actually could fully understand what was going on.

What’s next for you?

What's next for me is to graduate from high school and enter college. I am still a little in doubt whether I will like to do neuroscience or biomedical engineering; however, from what I experienced in my course, I am leaning towards choosing neuroscience. Columbia’s program overall was the most fulfilling and enriching experience I have ever participated in.