Student Spotlights 2020
Monica Goncalves-Garcia is a doctoral student in psychology specializing in neuroscience who represented UNM Graduate Studies at 2020's UNM Day at the New Mexico State Legislature. Monica is a first-year Ph.D. student, but she’s not new to UNM. An international student, she first attended UNM in 2014 as an undergraduate studying music. Now she’s made an amazing leap to a whole new discipline for graduate study because she is “interested in understanding what is going on in the brain that causes an organism—a human or animal—to behave the way they do,” she explains. “I am fascinated by brain plasticity, learning and memory processes, and intrigued by how prenatal alcohol exposure impacts those.” Although the switch from music to neuroscience has been challenging, Monica has found it incredibly rewarding. She hopes her research regarding prenatal alcohol exposure, and related fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, can help shed light on these topics to the public and help encourage those who are pregnant to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy.
Monica’s experience at UNM since her time as an undergraduate has been a positive one, even though it was her first time living abroad and she was nervous about the change. However, “all the support I had from day one at UNM made everything way easier than I could anticipate,” she says. “The international department at UNM is fantastic in helping us deal with all the bureaucracies and also promoting many events to help us with the transition from our cultures to the American culture.”
Monica’s parents went above and beyond to make it possible for Monica and her sister to pursue university degrees. Monica is a believer in education, and she’s blazing trails as the first person in her family to pursue a doctoral degree. “I really believe a better education can change the world in many powerful ways,” Monica says. “If I am where I am today, it is because of the power of education.” After completing her doctoral degree, she hopes to continue in academia professionally as a postdoc and beyond, continuing her own educational journey and helping others along theirs.