Starting out in kinesiology at the University of Lethbridge, Anja Gassner's academic path took a turn toward neuroscience after inspiring classes with professors from the Department of Neuroscience. While engaging in a summer independent study in Dr. Gibb's lab, she discovered the thrill of research, unlocking a passion that has reshaped her educational goals. At ULethbridge, Anja has discovered academic growth and a sense of belonging in the neuroscience community, a community she hadn’t previously considered.

I was set on pursuing a career in physiotherapy and thus started my degree as a kinesiology major at the University of Lethbridge. After taking a few neuroscience classes, one with Dr. Chelsea Ekstrand and one with Dr. Robbin Gibb, both from the Department of Neuroscience, my interest in neuroscience was sparked. This inspired me to switch my major to neuroscience after a year and a half into my studies.

Meet Anja | Dedicated. Energetic. Enthusiastic.
Program: Bachelor of Science | Major: Neuroscience
Hometown: Salzburg, Austria

Why did you choose ULethbridge?

I choose ULethbridge since it is a smaller university and thus allows smaller class sizes and more personal connections with the professors and peers. Furthermore, the newly opened Science Commons encourages a better learning environment with advanced research facilities.

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Please tell us a bit about your experiential or work-integrated learning. What were your three biggest takeaways from participating?

This past summer, I did my first independent study in Dr. Gibb's lab, which was an amazing experience and gave me insight into the field of research. My independent studies are supervised by master's student Heather Loewen, who has taught me many different lab procedures, and her patience and enthusiasm to teach have made this a life-changing experience. My three biggest takeaways are:

  1. Don't be scared to ask questions about the things you are curious about.
  2. Hands-on learning experience in the form of an independent study provides you with many more learning opportunities complementary to regular, in-classroom learning.
  3. Being open to learning new things can be a life-changing experience and may change your view of what you want to study and pursue.

What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience so far?

My most memorable ULethbridge experience so far is getting some hands-on experience and insight into the field of neuroscience research through my independent study in Dr. Gibb's lab and making connections with peers and professors.

How have your professors impacted your education?

Dr. Robbin Gibb and Heather Loewen have had a great impact on my education. My independent study in Dr. Gibb's lab was supervised by Heather, who has taught me many different lab procedures, and her patience and enthusiasm to teach has sparked my interest in research. Furthermore, the positive and supportive work environment in Dr. Gibb's lab has always made me feel welcomed and excited to learn new things. Due to this amazing experience, my interests have shifted, and I am now considering pursuing a master’s degree in neuroscience.

Anja worked over the summer to help graduate students complete behavioural testing and worked whenever she was needed. She is generous with her time and talents, and we are fortunate to work with her. – Dr. Robbin Gibb, Department of Neuroscience

Is there anyone else who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?

I want to thank the entire Gibb Lab crew for enabling such an amazing and supportive work environment. I have made many connections and found new friends, which makes the lab feel like a second family now.

I also want to thank my family for supporting and enabling me to pursue my education here at the University as an international student.

Anja, near the neuroscience department in the Science Commons. Photo submitted by Anja.

Have you received any scholarships and awards?

I have received the International Continuing Award, the International Students Entrance Scholarship, and the Board of Governors' Admission Scholarship. Receiving scholarships throughout my studies has greatly helped me with some of the financial stresses that can arise as a university student, especially as an international student, as it is not so easy to get financial support through student loans.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time I like to be physically active. Besides my academic goals, I am training for my ultimate goal to complete an Ironman triathlon. Triathlon training always helps me clear my mind after a long and stressful day. I also like to go hiking and skiing with my friends.

What are your hopes/plans for the future?

My hopes for the future are to gain more experience and learning opportunities in the field of neuroscience. Furthermore, I am hoping to successfully pursue my degree so that maybe one day I can be an inspiring researcher who not only helps us understand better how our brain functions but also inspires the next generation of students.

What advice would you like to give those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?

My advice to students who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge is not to be afraid if you aren't totally sure if you have picked the right major for your interests. There is always the opportunity to take classes outside of your major until you have found a discipline that sparks your interest. Furthermore, don't be afraid to ask questions about the things you are curious about. There are many professors out there who will be happy to answer your questions and further support your curiosity in the form of experiential or work-integrated learning.

Quick Answers

Favourite class: NEUR 2600 Brain and Behaviour
Favourite social activity at ULethbridge: Getting coffee with friends and chatting at the pool viewing area.
Favourite place to study: Science Commons study rooms

What are three awesome things about you?

  1. I am very dedicated to my academic goals.
  2. I was born and raised in Salzburg, Austria.
  3. I have travelled to 16 different countries.