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Fulbright Winner Sara Berman '10 Goes to Germany

Sara Berman ’10 loves listening to her grandparents’ stories about their early lives in Germany, growing up in the cities of Nuremberg and Bigen am Rhein. “Although my grandparents were forced to leave Germany when Hitler came to power, they still talk with me about the beauty of the German countryside and the rich cultural heritage of the nation,” she says.

Berman will have the opportunity to explore this heritage for herself next year, as well as be part of an international scientific collaboration. A Fulbright Research Grant will allow Berman, a biology major with a concentration in neural and behavioral science, to join a research team at the Max-Planck Institute of Neurobiology’s Axonal Guidance and Neural Connectivity Laboratory in Martinsried, Germany.

She’ll participate in studies related to retinal axon guidance, which refers to the formation of the neural circuit that allows for vision. Axons, the wires through which information flows in the nervous system, travel from the eye to the target area in the brain where visual input is processed. “Our goal is to understand what cues and molecules allow for the formation of the appropriate neural circuits so information obtained from the environment can be processed,” she says.

In order to achieve this, Berman and her colleagues will investigate the proteins necessary to form visual circuits in flies. “One of the possible practical applications of this research is to learn how to rewire neural circuits that have been destroyed by injury or disease,” she says.

Berman is indebted to her advisor, Assistant Professor of Biology (and Haverford alumnus) Andrea Morris ’91, for her help and guidance. “She has given me invaluable support during the research process, encouraging my ideas as a scientist,” she says.

Outside of her lab work, Berman hopes to immerse herself in German culture; although she studied abroad in Europe at the University of Edinburgh during her junior year, she was unable to travel to Germany during that time. “I especially want to visit the cities where my grandparents lived and which they discuss in their stories,” she says.

-Brenna McBride

The ramp from Magill Library with Ryan Gym and Sharpless Hall in the background.

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