Story in the College of Arts & Sciences
Psychology professor's research suggests that the gap between young minds and old ones may not be that large.
Patricia Simone, director of the Gerontology Program, is interested in how the brain stays nimble as we age. Her specialty in the psychology department is cognitive aging.
Undergraduate research assistants often assist her. They study a population much older than themselves. The hands-on aspect of the research is incredibly valuable to prospective scientists, she says.
"You can learn about things in class. But until you do it yourself, you don't exactly understand. Undergraduate research is a way to put theory into practice. You find out if you love it or if you hate it."
The small size of Santa Clara offers huge benefits. "There's a chance to have a voice that's heard here—in classes and outside. The idea is that your undergraduate experience is going to be a discourse, a dialogue."
Simone often works with students in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Santa Clara's educational program for students aged 55 and older.
As far as aging goes, Simone has encouraging words: "There are definitely differences between young people and old people cognitively. But our ability to compensate is amazing. People are looking for a fountain of youth. I don't know about that, but research is strong that there are ways to maintain cognition."