Jianing Mu '22 stands in front of a green background of trees and plants, smiling. Photo by Aby Isakov '24.

Where They’re Headed: Jianing Mu ‘22

The psychology major, with minors in neuroscience and statistics, is pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Texas at Austin.

Jianing Mu ‘22 furthering her academic career this fall by attending the University of Texas at Austin, where she will pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience. There, the psychology major who minored in neuroscience and statistics, will study neural mechanisms of memory, attention, and learning. She was particularly drawn to UT Austin due to its large community of memory researchers, who study memory from the molecular to the cognitive level.

“There are several researchers there whose work aligns with my interests and can potentially be my Ph.D. advisor,” Mu said.

Mu’s interest in neuroscience was sparked when she took “Cognitive Neuroscience” with Rebecca Compton, professor of psychology and director of neuroscience, in her first semester at Haverford. She found interest in how cognitive functions are facilitated by the physical workings of our neural system.

“For example, while you’re reading this, your memory supports text processing at a hierarchy of timescales, and your attention controls shifts between the text and your inner thoughts,” she said.

Mu emphasized the impact Compton had on both her college experience and her career. She was able to work with Compton during the summer after her first year. This confirmed her interest in research and inspired her to pursue off-campus research and, eventually, a Ph.D..

“I have continued to use the research methods that I learned that summer (EEG and eye tracking) in projects throughout my undergraduate years, and will likely continue to use them in graduate school,” Mu said. “Since working with Becky in my freshman year, I’ve established a close relationship with her and she was both my major advisor and thesis advisor. To me, she is both a mentor and a friend.”

Mu also credited the intimate nature of Haverford’s labs with her intellectual growth. 

“If you’re looking for your first research experience, consider working in a Haverford lab. You will be able to interact closely with the professor and receive hands-on guidance, which is quite rare in larger institutions,” she said. “This experience will prepare you well enough for more independent research projects elsewhere if you have a particular interest that Haverford doesn’t offer.”

Mu isn’t sure of exactly where she wants to work after she finishes graduate school, though she is certain she wants to pursue a career researching human cognition.

“Graduate school will allow me to learn new neuroimaging methods and strengthen my mathematical and computational skills,” she said.

“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series chronicling the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.