Spanish, Latin, Neuroscience, Biostatistics, Chemistry, Archaeology…
John Wetmore has far-flung interests, as his double major in psychology/neuroscience and classical studies indicates. So it's no surprise that before he heads to graduate school for biostatistics, Wetmore, who graduates from Macaulay Honors College at Hunter this spring, will spend a year in Madrid with his 2017-2018 Fulbright fellowship, teaching English in a secondary school and perfecting his Spanish.
"I applied for the Fulbright when I was studying archeology in Sicily as part of a Hunter study-abroad," he says. There, and on the island of Stromboli, "We worked on Bronze Age pottery and bones. It's amazing to see Roman monuments and experience another culture firsthand. The food was amazing, too!"
His interest in classics and languages began at St. Joseph by the Sea High School in Staten Island, where he studied Spanish and Latin. His path to neuroscience was more convoluted. He started at Hunter thinking he wanted to become a Latin professor, but also followed Hunter's pre-med track. He found that although he liked chemistry (he would minor in it), it was psychology and, in particular, neuroscience that captured his imagination more than medicine.
Meanwhile, he started volunteering with Hunter's Peer Health Exchange to teach in public high schools about sexual decision-making, substance usage, and mental hygiene. "Our goal is to give them skills and knowledge to make informed decisions about their health." This work in public health ultimately changed his career goals, as did his stint in the laboratory of Amber Alliger, a lecturer in experimental psychology, statistics and animal behavior.
Under Alliger's guidance, Wetmore looked at the effects of environmental enrichment and stress on rats. He examined what happened when he changed their environment, making it more stimulating (such as with running wheels and space to play) or more stressful. In results that he presented at the 2017 Hunter Undergraduate Research Conference, he said that he found physical changes in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that deals with learning and memory, that would better defend them against acute stress.
Besides taking Alliger's psychology statistics course, Wetmore also became her teaching assistant, which in part involved making presentations to students. "She really encouraged me toward biostatistics and the Fulbright. In her recommendation, she was able to say how well I performed as both a student and an educator."
He also praises the help given by associate professor Rosa Alicia Ramos, his Spanish teacher, who made sure that his Fulbright essays were culturally tailored for Spain.
Before heading to Spain, he will attend the Harvard University Summer Program of Epidemiology and Biostatistics to study neurodegenerative disorders, such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. "It's a combination of all the things I want to do."