Meet Ava Duskic ’23, an English and Neuroscience Double Major

Duskic has conducted research on memory and serves as an editor for the literary and arts magazine “MUSES” as well as the peer-reviewed academic journal “Muhlenberg Academic Review.”

By: Keanna Peña ’25  Wednesday, April 26, 2023 02:58 PM

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Ava Duskic ’23 conducting summer research in 2021. Photos by Joe Romano ’23

Duskic is a first-generation student who initially didn’t know much about the college process …
“When I went to my high school college counselor, she asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’ And I thought about how I’m really interested in the brain and English. My counselor introduced me to the idea of doing neuroscience, and so she recommended Muhlenberg. I really wanted to pursue both neuroscience and English, and Muhlenberg was one of the only schools that would let me do that. The tour also sealed the deal for me. I really felt the vibrant and welcoming energy of Muhlenberg on the tour.”

… but her passions for neuroscience and English solidified when she came to Muhlenberg.
“I took an English class with [now retired] Professor Jill Stephen. It was my first semester of college and my first introduction to literary theory, which was intimidating — until it wasn’t. Stephen and my peers taught me what it meant to be a literary scholar. That class was a real starting point for me as it helped challenge what I thought I knew about English as a field of study. Regarding neuroscience, I have always found the ever-evolving and ever-learning nature of the brain fascinating. Teachers could give me a detailed examination of how the kidneys worked, but no one could ever give me a straight answer about the brain. There is always more to understand and more ways to grow in this field.”

She conducted behavioral research with Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience Gretchen Gotthard.
“As a Dana Scholar, you are required to do research, and I was really excited to have this hands-on, tangible experience. One of the best decisions I made at Muhlenberg was reaching out to Gotthard about doing research. My research team and I investigated the memory system of Physarum polycephalum [slime mold] by analyzing behavioral responses, such as how quickly the organism can remember and respond to the placement of food stimuli under stressful environmental conditions. It was a project that we built from the ground up.”

Duskic is also prose editor for the literary and arts magazine MUSES and contributing copy editor for the peer-reviewed academic journal Muhlenberg Academic Review (MAR) ... 
“I have grown so much and have become so much more confident in my editing abilities since freshman year. A part of that confidence comes from being an editor for MAR. While I was abroad during the spring semester of my junior year, [Associate Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing] Linda Miller reached out to me about being a contributing copy editor for MAR. I remember sitting in this cafe in Denmark, editing essays, and I was thrilled. I was doing work but I didn't notice. I loved that I was helping someone else’s work thrive.”

… and she became a member of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honors society, her sophomore year. 
“I love being a part of Sigma Tau Delta. You get to submit academic and creative work to their yearly international convention. The convention was in Denver from March 29 to April 1 this year. Miller, a handful of other Sigma Tau Delta members and I went and presented our work. I got to be on a panel and won a $200 prize for third place in the original fiction category. The conference was an incredibly rewarding experience that gave me the confidence to find my voice and share my college work in a professional setting.”

Three college students smile and sit in front of a fireplace holding up white envelopes containing a reward
Duskic, Grace Alvarado ’23 and Haley Arnold ’23 all won awards at the conference. Photo courtesy of Linda Miller