Student Spotlight: Caitlin Ridgewell PhD ’22

Caitlin Ridgewell is a PhD candidate in the Behavioral Neurosciences program whose lab studies brain health and cognition in active duty military service members. Her dissertation studied the use of a novel neuromodulatory technique on stress and performance. Caitlin will graduate in May 2022.

Which topic did you choose for your dissertation research? How did you settle on that topic?

“My dissertation research is on the use of a novel neuromodulatory technique, transcutaneous electrical stimulation of the trigeminal nerve, on stress and performance. My lab studies brain health and cognition in active duty military service members, so the potential of new technology to prevent the negative consequences of stress on health and performance in military service members is of real interest to us.”

Why did you choose to do a PhD?

“I’ve known that I want a PhD since I was pretty young, when I decided that I wanted to work for the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. As time went on and I had more experience in research, my interests changed and I ended up wanting to pursue a degree in neuroscience and do my own research instead. So there was never really a choice in the matter!”

How would you describe a typical day as a PhD student?

“I dont know that my experience is “typical” since I’ve been off-site working with the military, but my typical day has involved a lot of data collection, as the study that my dissertation is based on includes long testing days. I also try to spend time outside, usually walking my dogs, and working with my amazing team and mentors on papers and new projects whenever possible.”

What is one of your best memories from the time in your PhD program?

“Aside from hearing ‘Congratulations, Dr.!,’ I think my best memories are about hanging out with the other people in my program. They never fail to make me laugh!:

What are your next steps?

“I accepted a T32 postdoctoral fellowship at McLean Hospital.”

Do you have any advice for future PhD students?

“Remember to go outside sometimes. Dont forget that people believe in you and you can do this.”