Beyond the Bluff: Ariel Pruyser ’21

Ariel Pruyser ‘21

Major: Psychology

Next Step: Research Coordinator at Mount Sinai Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center

Students arrive at LMU for different reasons. Like a lot of other L.A. Transplants, Ariel initially came for the weather. She thought Southern California’s climate would be a smooth transition from her home state of Hawaii. She also wanted to spend her college years in a major metropolis.

Once she stepped foot on the Bluff however, she became an academic star in LMU’s Pyschology Department. Pruyser developed an interest in the brain-behavior relationship in high school as a hospice volunteer where she was first exposed to clinical treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. “Being a hospice volunteer allowed me to work with patients and their families, and ultimately made me realize that I wanted to be in a field where I could connect with people and also study complex neurological impairments,” Pruyser explains. As a sophomore, Pruyser was awarded a McNair Scholarship, which is named for the former physicist and astronaut, Ronald E. McNair, and is awarded to first-generation college students as well as members of groups that are traditionally underrepresented in graduate education and have demonstrated strong academic potential. Pruyser took advantage of the funding and exposure to research programs offered by her McNair Scholarship to give her academic and professional career momentum. For two years she was a a student research assistant for the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles, as well as a research assistant for Dr. Richard Abrams’ Consciousness and Cognition Lab. She has also presented at the International Psychonomics Society Conference in 2019, and has presented at LMU’s Undergraduate Research Scholars Program for the past three consecutive years. “Through McNair, I was also able to apply and was accepted as a 2020 Summer Diversity, Inclusion & Access (DIA) JumpStart Research Fellowship at USC and was able to conduct research there in the A-Z lab (the lab’s focus is on neurodevelopment and embodied cognition). After my fellowship was over, I continued as a research assistant for the lab through my senior year,” elaborates Pruyser. For the past two years, Pruyser has been a lead research assistant in Professor David Hardy’s Cognition and Human Performance Lab. “Dr. David Hardy has been my research adviser and mentor since the Summer of 2019 and I’ve been working in his lab for two years. He has been an amazing mentor and has fostered my interest in the field of neuropsychology.”

Pruyser’s focus on neuropsychology research has opened many doors of opportunity, including a  job at Mount Sinai’s Brain Injury Research Center in New York City that will begin this summer. As a research coordinator, one of Pruyser’s main responsibilities will be recruiting patients who have sustained traumatic brain injuries for research projects. “The main project I’ll be recruiting for and working on investigates different ways to improve the rehabilitation care during the recovery processes for patients after sustaining a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Along with subject recruitment, I will also be responsible for administering neuropsychological and cognitive tests to the subjects as well as collecting, recording, and inputing the data from the study.”

The Mount Sinai job is excellent preparation for Pruyser’s long-term goal – becoming a clinical neuropsychologist in a large metropolitan hospital, while still conducting research on the side. While her dedication to serving and connecting with people began with her hospice volunteer work in high school, she credits BCLA’s emphasis on educating the whole person as something that further cultivated this passion. For students still on the Bluff, she has two pieces of advice: “connect with your professors outside of class and take advantage of the wide range of courses offered in BCLA!”.