As part of our celebration of Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked Ana Navarro-Cebrian, Course Director for NEUR 200, to share a bit about her background and her journey from Spain to the University of Maryland.
What is your background?
I was born and raised in the center of Spain. I am from a town in the south of Castilla where almost 100% of the population is in some way involved in the wine industry (very different from my current world!). I went to Madrid for my university studies when I was 18 years old and moved to California at age 25 to continue with my PhD research.
What is your favorite tradition related to your Hispanic Heritage?
I grew up studying in a music conservatory and play a few instruments. One of the types of music that still moves me the most is traditional music from Spain, especially flamenco, whose roots are mostly Indian and Mediterranean (mainly Arabic), but has also been influenced later by music from Latino America, mainly Cuba. I find flamenco really complex and interesting.
What triggered your passion for Neuroscience? Who has influenced you most throughout your career?
My passion for neuroscience definitely started as an undergraduate student. I was very lucky to have great professors in Madrid who influenced me and also valued and encouraged me to pursue my PhD.
What were some of the challenges you faced in getting to this point?
The biggest challenge has been becoming a mother while in the process of establishing my career. This society is not well prepared to support working families with young children. It’s even harder for parents who live far away from their families and don’t have that kind of support. It was also a little challenging when I arrived in the USA at first and had to start using a different language, although I’ve found Americans very open-minded towards foreigners and different accents, and that helped me to become confident with my English very quickly.
What trends in neuroscience are you most excited about?
I have been really interested in the connection between mind and body. I have practiced yoga and mindfulness for a long time. I started a project with my undergraduate students at Loyola University that I would like to continue at UMD, studying neurophysiological changes that occur with mindfulness meditation.
What is your advice to students based on your experience?
My advise for students is always to try to have fun doing what they are doing. I think all of us are extremely lucky to be able to spend our days asking interesting questions and learning new things. I often see my students overwhelmed with all the work they have, and yes, it is important to get good grades, but, since you are going to have to do the hard work anyway, you better have fun while doing it!