To the uninitiated, dance and psychology may appear to have little to do with one another, but, for Heather Robinson ’19, the two are united in the emergent field of neuroaesthetics. While she stokes her long-term aspirations to enter that area of research, the psychology major, who minored in both neuroscience and dance , is developing her two passions independently in Cambridge, Mass.
To satisfy her scientific inclinations, Robinson has been volunteering as a research assistant in the Harvard Vision Sciences Lab. She’s working on a study on physiological reactions to varying social situations. Apart from gaining valuable research experience at a top-tier institution, she’s also developing new ways to problem solve.
“I’m looking forward to working on skills I never had the time to do before, like coding,” she said. “I’m learning how to code experiments and what participants will see in this software called PsychoPy. I love being able to figure out problems on my own and the satisfying feeling of successfully troubleshooting a problem.”
Time in the lab, though well-spent, isn’t enough for Robinson. When she’s not volunteering at Harvard, she heads off to the Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre, a ballet studio where she takes classes and works as an administrative assistant.
“I love being able to continue dancing after college,” she said. “Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre is also an amazing place to work because they host tons of dance events that bring together a variety of different dance genres, like their Dance for World Community Festival.”
Between these two positions, there isn’t a clear preference for Robinson. Throughout her undergraduate experience, dance and psychology were equally inspiring and she hopes that will persist in perpetuity.
“I think I really benefited from the fact that while I was at Haverford, I didn’t have to choose between more ‘academic’ courses and dance,” she stated. “Being able to do both and think about neuroscience and dance critically has been really important to me.”
Being able to critically examine and place both of her interests in dialogue with one another is exactly what the recent graduate plans to do down the line, and the study of neuroaesthetics seems to be the perfect melting pot.
“Although it’s a fairly new and under-researched field,” she said, “there is a lot of potential for answering questions like: Why do we as humans value art? What happens in the brain during an aesthetic experience? How can we use art as therapy? This field completely incorporates everything that I’m interested in: psychology, neuroscience, and dance.”
“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series reporting on the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.