Since she was a child, Gianna Perez has always been drawn to science. At age ten, she boldly announced her plan to one day earn a PhD, before she even knew what a PhD was. She just knew she was mesmerized by science and wanted to pursue it for the rest of her life.
When the time came to search for college majors, she discovered the field of neuroscience—and Villanova. One thing that weighed heavily on her mind during the college process was debt. After being accepted to Villanova, she applied for the Presidential Scholarship, which is merit-based and covers tuition, room, board meals and books.
“The day I learned that I received the scholarship was the best day of my life thus far. I am a first-generation college student and an achievement of this magnitude was previously unheard of in my family. To say that this award is life changing is an understatement,” said Perez.
From the moment she stepped onto campus, the Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience (CBN) major wasted no time delving into research. As a freshman, Gianna was selected for the Villanova First Year Research Match Program and was placed in the psychology lab of Dr. Michael Brown. The following year, she reached out to Dr. Benjamin Sachs and secured a spot in his Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience of Behavior lab.
“At many other schools, it is almost unheard of to email a professor and join their research team,” said Perez. “Dr. Sachs has helped me blossom into a Neuroscientist and given me the opportunity to do meaningful work.”
These early experiences helped her gain a summer 2017 internship at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, where she studied sleep and memory. She presented this research at The Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, the largest gathering of Neuroscientists in the world, in November 2017.
In addition to her academic and professional pursuits, Gianna is actively involved in the Villanova community—from co-founding Feminova, an organization dedicated to destigmatizing feminism and fostering feminist dialogue, to serving as an executive board member of REACH, a mentoring and tutoring program that serves underprivileged schools in Philadelphia.
Gianna credits her success to the support and resources available to her on campus.
“CASA. The Honors Program. The Center for Research and Fellowship. Resources like these are what make Villanova such a special place, and I know that annual support from donors helps make them possible.”
In her remaining time as an undergraduate, Gianna plans to publish research in an academic journal, apply to doctoral programs and continue to ignite change at Villanova. She hopes to one day work as the head of a lab in industry, studying psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and how treatments can be improved.
During her Presidential Scholarship interview, Gianna was asked what she wanted to contribute to Villanova.
“I said that I wanted to make the University even better than it was when I started. I have worked toward this mission every day and will continue to do so long after Commencement.”
Scholarships change lives at Villanova. You can be a part of this impact by making a gift to the Villanova Scholarship Fund.