Patten Prize Winner VonDerVellens research sheds light on Cognitive Function

by Jasmine Williams, CAS intern

Bryan VonDerVellen, a senior Miami University students in the Department of Psychology, is one recipient of the 2016 Patten Prize. The Patten Prize is an award given by the department to senior students who have done outstanding work throughout their time in the department.

VonDerVellen 05/2017

(Photo Above- Mr. Bryan VonDerVellen, Class of 2017, Presenting at the 2017 Ungraduate Research Forum)


As a freshman, Bryan entered Miami University as a biology/pre-med student. He hated biology, but took PSY 111 as a prerequisite and found psychology to be extremely interesting. Bryan decided that psychology was the major he was really passionate about, although he did not declare the major until his junior year. Earning the Patten Prize is a very meaningful accomplishment for Bryan. He stated,

“It is such an honor to be awarded the Patten Prize. It is a really cool experience to know that I am being recognized in the department, especially since I didn’t start out as a psych major.”

Not only has Bryan been an outstanding student, but he has worked in a research lab with Dr. Vrinda Kalia since he was a freshman. Hoping to gain a deeper understanding of how the brain functions while experiencing stressors, Bryan joined the research team led by Dr. Kalia.

The research that Bryan conducts involves understanding the executive functioning, an individual’s ability to direct cognitive resources toward goal oriented behavior, in females’ brains in response to acute stressors. The executive functioning research Bryan is involved in specifically focuses on cognitive flexibility, which is a type of executive functioning.

While working in this research lab for the past 3.5 years, Bryan has helped write the manual for fNIRS, a tool which examines how the brain activates and responds to stressors. fNIRS stands for functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy and is a tool that uses near infrared light to look at oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin in the brain. The manual that he contributed to has been submitted for publication within the psychology community.

Bryan credits Dr. Kalia with much of his success as an undergraduate student studying psychology. He says,

“Dr. Kalia has been a phenomenal mentor throughout my entire process as a student. She helped me change and declare my major to psychology, and also helped me prepare for job interviews.”

While at Miami, Bryan has been an exceptional student and member of his research team. His research experiences have expanded his passion and interest in the psychology field. As he ends his undergraduate career at Miami this spring, he looks forward to starting his new job in Cincinnati at Keyence as a sales engineer. Keyence is a leader in light based technology, so Bryan credits his understanding and experience with fNIRS as a huge advantage for him. Additionally, his comprehension of psychology has given him a greater understanding of people and the emotional connections that impact sales. Bryan is looking forward to all of the experiences awaiting him after graduation.

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