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Q&A with Undergraduate Psychology Researcher Troy Hubert

April 5, 2021

Troy Hubert is a senior psychology student at CU Denver. He works with Ben Greenwood, PhD, as part of Greenwood’s Neuroscience Lab through the EUReCA! Work-study Program. Here he shares about his experience with research to Student EUReCA! Ambassador, Jacob Torrens.

Jake: What is your research on? And, how does that apply to what you’re learning?

Troy Hubert

Troy: I work in Dr. Greenwood’s Exercise Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory. And in this laboratory, we research the effects of exercise on stress, fear, and anxiety. We mainly use animal models to explore stress. My particular project is looking at how voluntary exercise, such as running, affects female stress resilience. In particular, we’re looking at a subset of neurons in the brain called serotonin neurons and how their activity affects stress. To do this, we had rats run for three and six weeks, and now we’re looking at their brain activity.

Jake: How did you pick your major?

Troy: I was originally working in the substance abuse treatment field, and I realized without a degree or any sort of formal training, my opportunities were limited. So, I went back to school to get my degree in psychology. Originally, when I was going to school, I wanted to study clinical psychology, specifically psychopathology and humans. Through taking coursework at CU Denver, I got more and more interested in neuroscience and how behavior is a result of the brain. I’m also looking at graduate programs that emphasize both clinical- and neuro-focuses.

Jake: What is the evolution of your research?

Troy: When I first started researching at CU Denver, I was a transfer student in my junior year. I joined a cognition laboratory and eventually moved over to Dr. Greenwood’s lab. Moving forward, I plan on working in a clinical lab. I want to look at stress, PTSD, and trauma. I’m interested in taking what I’ve learned here and working with human populations while also acquiring new clinical tools.

Jake: How did you meet your mentor?

Troy: I met Dr. Greenwood after taking his exercise brain and behavior class. I was pretty interested in the topic, and I knew I needed to get into research if I wanted to go to graduate school. So, I asked him if I could join his lab, and from that point on there was a pretty organic progression toward getting more involved in the research aspect.

Jake: What is your favorite part of research?

Troy: Dr. Greenwood has been really awesome with providing me information about projects that others in the lab are working on, as well as previous studies. My favorite part of research is taking a previous study and coming up with new questions. How can we push this topic further? I am also passionate about exercise and feel that our research is really making a difference.

Jake: What is your data analysis process?

Troy: Basically, we’re looking at particular neurons and their activity. In order to do that, we stain the neurons so we can count them for whatever particular things we’re looking for.

Jake: What was a failure that turned into a lesson?

Troy: I actually had a couple unsuccessful attempts at going to school. And originally, I saw that, as, you know, I’m an inadequate student, and I can’t perform academically. For me, that turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it just showed me that I needed to have more determination and discipline—you can always try again. You can always revamp what you have and create a better future. 

Jake: What principles or morals have gotten you through?

Troy: Sticking things out and putting in the work. I overcame that by doing the best that I could, and knowing that my best was going to be good enough. You know, that’s all I can really do.

Jake: If you were talking to yourself the first time you went to school, what advice would you give?

Troy: Explore as many different things possible, and trust the process. In my experience, I ended up liking a lot of things that I never thought I would like in the first place. You have to just give it a try. I think incoming freshmen need to know that there are resources for them if they’re struggling. Don’t be afraid to reach out—the university is here to help you. 

Jake: Definitely, can’t agree more with all that, thanks!

This story was written by Elizabeth Evans and Jacob Torrens on behalf of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities.