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Recent Grad Wins Full Scholarship to Cambridge from Gates Foundation

During her four years at Vassar, Alexa Mousley ’20 conducted research on brain function as a neuroscience major and gained insights into early childhood development working with preschoolers at the College’s Wimpfheimer Nursery School. Mousley is applying that knowledge as a PhD candidate focusing on early childhood learning at the University of Cambridge. She was one of 24 Americans to earn a 2021 Gates Cambridge Scholarship, which covers all college costs.

Alexa Mousley ’20Photo: Courtesy of Alexa Mousley

The fellowship program was established in 2000 through a $210-million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Mousley is the first Vassar graduate to be named a Gates Cambridge Scholar since 2007.

Mousley’s research involves analyzing neurological data gathered over the past seven years from young children at the university’s Center for Attention, Learning and Memory. “I aim to model the relationships between neural, behavioral, and cognitive development to inform evidence-based strategies to help children with learning challenges,” she said.

Mousley said she was inspired to pursue a PhD in neuroscience by Assistant Professor of Psychological Science Hadley Bergstrom and Associate Professor of Psychological Science and Director of Neuroscience and Behavior Bojana Zupan. “Professor Bergstrom was fundamentally responsible for bringing me into neuroscience as a member of his lab team. Dr. Zupan helped me develop my research skills and pushed me to learn about scientific communication,” she said.

Mousley said the courses she took to earn a minor in education had led her to her work at Wimpfheimer Nursery School. “Julie Reiss (the school’s director) sparked my interest in early childhood development, which is now central to my PhD research in neuroscience at Cambridge,” she said.