Student Profile: Jessica Gandy

 

While still a student at Shoreline Community College, Gandy had the opportunity to meet SU President Stephen Sundborg, S.J. Their conversation about community engagement, social justice, and a personal education made her decision to transfer to Seattle University over UW an easy one. Picking a major wasn’t so simple.

Gandy had spent some time between high school and college in various jobs and traveling, and when she settled down, she focused her studies on pre-med. After classes in neuroscience, she zeroed in on understanding how physical changes affect emotional and behavioral activities. Enter Psychology Professor Michael Spinetta, whose research centers on learning, memory, and psychopharmacology, including the effects that drugs of abuse and therapeutic drugs have on learning processes. With his help, Gandy received a research assistantship at the University of Washington in its pharmacology department. There she used optogenetics and other techniques to study the biological basis of addiction in lab rats and mice.

 “We used light to activate certain parts of the brain after a substance is administered,” she explained. “We observed, for example, if serotonin neurons could have a role in addiction.”

Her class with Psychology Professor Katherine Raichle led to the paper “Can Priming Influence Benevolent and Hostile Sexist Attitudes?" Working with fellow student Christine Jensen, they studied whether sexist attitudes could be influenced by gender stereotype narratives. They presented their findings at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in April and at Seattle University's Undergraduate Research Conference in May.

Soon after coming to campus, Gandy became involved in SU’s Gamma Mu chapter of Tau Sigma, a transfer student honor society, and organized events and service opportunities to bring transfer students together. They volunteered at YouthCare, serving brunch to homeless youth in downtown Seattle, and held movie nights at the Ronald McDonald House. She also was elected president of the SU chapter of Psi Chi, the International Honor Society for Psychology, and served on the College of Arts and Sciences Student Executive Council.

“You come into a school where most of the students have been together for a couple of years,” she said. “It can be lonely for a transfer student and hard to break in. Volunteering establishes connections while creating change together.”

In recognition of her accomplishments in the classroom and in the community, Gandy received Tau Sigma’s top national scholarship award.

Published June 2015.