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Colin Roth

Meet Jesse Cole, summer scholar

By Eleanor Krasner

Jesse Cole envisions himself in his future profession as he stands six inches away from a brain, cutting and exploring this organ.

"I feel like a neurosurgeon when I'm actually exposed to a brain's functional anatomy in the lab," Cole said. "It's a cool experience."

Cole, a junior from Garrett Park, Md., majoring in integrative neuroscience, investigated the brain further over the summer after he was selected to participate in the 2015 Summer Scholars and Artists Program.

Cole's project aimed to discern a link between early prenatal alcohol exposure and anxiety disorders during her child's adolescence. He conducted the study by using an animal model of rats equivalent in age to human adolescents.

"Fetal alcohol disorder occurs when a parent consumes alcohol during her pregnancy, and this can result in a lot of secondary issues like anxiety disorders," Cole said. "This relatively new and exciting area of research has been getting a lot of attention lately."

Cole partnered with Marvin Diaz, an assistant professor in the Psychology Department who studies Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Cole considers Diaz's arrival at Harpur College in fall 2014 a lucky coincidence, for his research parallels Cole's interests, and his newcomer status allowed for open spots in his lab.

"We've been able to collaborate and build the lab from the ground up, and I think it's a great match for the project we plan to tackle this summer," Cole said.

Describing Cole's project as "very transnational," Marvin Diaz said that Cole's endeavor has considerable potential and practicality.

"The umbrella term 'Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders' is a new field of research, and important to study in order to understand the alterations in the brain that give rise to behavioral disabilities with the hopes of eventually creating some treatment specific for that disorder," said Diaz, who is part of the Developmental Exposure Alcohol Research Center, a collaborative venture between Binghamton University, SUNY Upstate Medical University, SUNY Cortland and the University of Maryland.

Diaz attributed Cole's success academically and the project's flourishing promise to Cole's ambition.

"Jesse is very academically bright and certain about his career plans," Diaz said. "In this day and age, that is not a common occurrence among most college students."

Cole's admiration for neuroscience blossomed in his early childhood, while observing it in action after his father was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. Cole witnessed his father undergo about 10 brain surgeries to remove the tumor and fix numerous complications.

"Seeing what these fantastic surgeons were doing to save my dad's life motivated me to go into neuroscience," Cole said.

Cole, who aspires to pursue this passion further by attending medical school, said he strives to "be that doctor for someone else's parent in the future."

And Binghamton University's positive atmosphere has certainly fostered Cole's progress toward his dream.

"Everyone I talk to is so talented, doing amazing things in different areas, but they're also so down­to­earth, humble and passionate about what they're doing." Cole said. "I think that's what every college student body should be like."

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Last Updated: 3/1/17