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By Jan McCoy Ebbets   Date: 5/12/09 Bookmark and Share

Her Mind is on the Mind

Despite the fact that she is still without a firm job offer, Alana Curewitz ’09 is not concerned. Not to worry, she says, she’s been on “a million” interviews recently, and, like many of her Smith classmates, has complete confidence that she’ll get the position she wants.

What the psychology major wants is a two-year position in a hospital research facility so that she can add to her lab experience before entering a clinical doctorate program in a few years. She’s already had nearly a dozen interviews at the neuroscience and psychiatric research programs of McLean and Massachusetts General hospitals in Boston. Her first choice is to work with a team conducting research on bipolar and psychotic disorders.

It isn’t surprising that Curewitz has a certain fascination with the mind. The Peabody, Massachusetts, native used her Praxis internship as a junior and spent a summer with a Harvard University professor investigating attempted suicide. Her senior year was devoted to conducting a special studies project on hoarding habits in children in foster care. Even as an adolescent, she says, she was intrigued by why serial killers were serial killers. She researched the topic for a thesis in high school and used Jack the Ripper as her subject.

“I like investigating the mind,” she says. “I’m always doing research, it seems, but I’m most interested in asking ‘why.’ I want to analyze the [brain] mechanisms behind certain behaviors.”

The first in her family to go to college, Curewitz came to Smith by chance. Both her high school English and Advance Placement calculus teachers recommended she consider Smith. Both noticed her keen interest in mathematics and a penchant for asking questions. “Math was one of my best subjects in high school,” she recalls. “I was one of two girls in a calculus class full of guys, and every time I asked a question one of those guys would mutter, ‘oh that’s a ridiculous question.’
“’You need Smith!’” my teachers said. “’At Smith, they’ll nurture your ideas and value your opinions.’ And looking back now, I can honestly say that there’s not a single instance in my four years here when that wasn’t true.”

While she continued to cultivate her love of mathematics and nourish her curiosity for the mechanisms of the mind, she has also been actively involved in the performing arts at Smith. She performs as a flutist with the Smith College Orchestra and Wind Ensemble and on a whim started an informal flute quartet her senior year. She also joined the Jazz Ensemble last September and began plunking around on the bass guitar, learning in a year how to play with enough skill that “by May I was playing the bass guitar on every song.”

Curewitz attributes her success with the bass to an “amazing instructor.” Actually, come to think of it, she says, “All instructors, everyone I’ve worked with at Smith, are amazing. Why are they amazing? Because everyone I’ve come in contact with, whether it’s faculty members, music conductors or Smith staff, push me because they know I like to succeed and that for me, good is never good enough.”

With everything she does, Curewitz admits to being goal oriented and driven to succeed. Her days at Smith were spent in motion, moving nonstop 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., she says, from labs to classes to work-study jobs to music rehearsals. “If I look at my life here as it progressed, I realize that the more I’ve taken on, the happier I am and the more sleep I get,” she smiles. “I don’t know how the sleep part is humanly possible, but somehow, I did it.”



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