John Gonzalez-Amoretti is a 4th year Neuroscience graduate student. Gonzalez-Amoretti received his degree in Chemistry from Universidad Ana G. Mendez in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. He is currently working in the lab of Adam Snyder, PhD, in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department at the University of Rochester where he is studying visual attention and how the brain uses information about an object to find its location.
The National Eye Institute (NEI) awarded Gonzalez-Amoretti an F31 to study how neural populations in the prefrontal cortex of the brain use feature information of an object, such as its color and shape, to assign it a location that eases the search for that object. “I’m really interested in how the brain creates representations of the world around us and how those are used to enable cognitive mechanisms, such as attention,” Gonzalez-Amoretti said. “Basically, when you’re at a concert and go to the bathroom, how do you find your group of friends—you may be on the lookout for specific clothing to identify the potential places in the crowd where you may find them.”
Gonzalez-Amoretti is thrilled to receive this funding opportunity. “It feels good to have the support from the NEI for my research. It is awesome to have this kind of validation for my ideas and hard work, I would have never pictured myself here.”
He attributes his success in science to his innate curiosity. “I have this impulse to grab things and examine them up close, now it’s more under control but I used to get scolded all the time as a kid for touching things,” Gonzalez-Amoretti said. “Stargazing was a common hobby of mine, which led to many questions about space and the nature of things. It led me to study chemistry, where my desire to pursue a career in research became clear early on. However, philosophy sparked my interest in consciousness and perception. It eventually led me to shift my research interests, which led me to pursue a career in neuroscience.” His future goal is to pursue research focused on neural dynamics of conscious perception and how psychedelics may influence these dynamics.
Outside the lab, Gonzalez-Amoretti is active in the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) at the University of Rochester and the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience Diversity Commission. “I have had to work really hard and take initiative to get where I am today. There were many times where I had to hustle to find resources and opportunities. I wasn’t surrounded by people who could point me to the right direction to pursue higher education, let alone research. I had to go out of my way to find that. Now, I want to do what I can to contribute to improving the accessibility to educational resources and opportunities that can fulfill the potential of future first-generation STEM leaders.”
Article originally appeared in NeURoscience Volume 20.