UO graduate student wins Science Coalition video challenge

Mea Songco-Casey, a graduate student at the University of Oregon, is the winner of the Fund it Forward Student Video Challenge, which includes a $1,000 prize from the Science Coalition.

Songco-Casey is a doctoral student in the Institute of Neuroscience. Her winning video focuses on the work she and other researchers are doing in the Niell Lab. They study the visual system of the octopus on the molecular level to see how its brain compares to humans.

“Understanding the brain is a very large task that takes people approaching it from different perspectives," Songco-Casey said. “By studying the brain in something completely different, we might reveal something useful (for human health).”

The Science Coalition is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to sustaining the federal government’s investment in scientific research.

Federal funding is essential to supporting research such as hers, Songco-Casey said. When she started at the UO, she received monetary awards as a Promising Scholar and ARCS Scholar. The National Institutes of Health also granted her a diversity supplement to fund a portion of her research.

Those contributions have instilled confidence in her ability as a scientist and enabled her to progress in her field of study.

“When you are funding science, you are funding people,” Songco-Casey said. “You’re funding someone like me and making a huge impact on the types of experiments I can do.”

Moving forward, Songco-Casey wants to pursue more opportunities in research and science communication. She is considering postdoctoral research or teaching at a community college.

The video challenge reinforced Songco-Casey’s passion for introducing others to science.

“I’m a strong proponent for science advocacy,” Songco-Casey said. “This challenge reminded me of this desire to communicate with non-scientists and bridge the gap.”

—By Anna Persell, Student Services and Enrollment Management