Student Spotlights

Ambreia Edmonds

PBS junior, psychology  |  Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana


Where do you hope your studies at IU will lead you?
I hope my studies at IU will eventually lead me into the field of clinical psychology. My dream career is to work with individuals who struggle with mental illness.
What is your favorite part about the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences?
My favorite part of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences is the Psychology Club. I think it’s a great way for us students to come together and it helps connect with those who share a similar major.
Are there any staff or faculty members within our department who have had a positive impact on you?
I would say one faculty member who had a positive impact on me was Irene Vlachos-Weber. Since I was a part of “the COVID class,” it was difficult to really connect with anyone on campus. But she made this easier when she organized an ice cream social for our intro psychology class and a tour of campus, which really made me feel welcome.
What is something most people are surprised to learn about you?
Most people are surprised to learn that I have had a hard upbringing. Yet, despite the cards I’ve been dealt in my life, I have never taken that as an excuse to just give up. I work hard every day because I have something to prove to myself as well as my family.
What did you learn while working as a camp counselor at the Dayspring Center this past summer?
One thing I learned while working at Dayspring Center is the importance of nurturing children. You’ll be surprised to see how far a little love goes. I also believe taking a course in developmental psychology prior to taking the position helped me apply the tools I learned while working with children. We must remember we are raising future adults.
Is there anything we can do as a department to to better support you?
The only thing I ask for from the department is encouragement. As a first-generation college student, it becomes overwhelming sometimes. It’s important to know you have someone in your corner.

Photo by Jordan Morning

Kami Salibayeva

PBS fourth year Ph.D. candidate, computational and cognitive neuroscience (PBS/PNS)  |  Advisor: Aina Puce  |  Hometown: Almaty, Kazakhstan


What do you hope to accomplish in your current field of study?
My dissertation focuses on how we can edit some of the ways we think about emotions — I propose some complex mathematical solutions that would build a foundation for future translational science and even therapeutic approaches. Of course, those possible applications are years or even decades away, and my work is just a small steppingstone. Still, I am passionate about my topic, and the long-term uses of my work are what helps me keep the tedious fundamental work, ‘the baby steps,’ so interesting and fresh. I hope that ultimately my proposed solutions will be useful to further research. I also hope that in the future the field of emotions neuroscience will become more culturally, theoretically, and methodologically diverse.
What is your favorite part about the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences?
I think our department is unique in that from day one of my undergraduate career, ever since I took my first intro course as an undergraduate in neuroscience, I felt like a part of something bigger. As both an alumna of the bachelor’s program and a current graduate student, I have had a chance to see the department grow and yet remain cozy and warm. As a graduate student, I don’t feel intimidated to approach anyone from our esteemed faculty or wonderful staff members, and I know that people in the department have the students’ best interests at heart.
What is something most people don’t know about the international student experience?
Perhaps a surprise to many people is that the hardest thing is not necessarily being away from your loved ones or acclimatizing yourself to the conditions of living in a new country. At least to me, the hardest part of being an international student has been in finding my true voice and gaining confidence to bring my identity to the table — because a sense of belonging is probably one of the more elusive feelings you can attain when coming to a foreign country.
What is something you wish more people knew about you?
At times it is hard to balance the excitement of being at IU and my connection to home. I try to use all the opportunities in front of me — I have access to world-class facilities and faculty, not to mention the beauty of the IU Bloomington campus. At the same time, I follow the news from home almost constantly. I wish more people realized that for international students, especially those whose home countries go through extreme strife, it is hard to feel safe and secure in our positions, while our loved ones go through difficult times. Thanks to social media, I can still be in touch with all my friends and family.
How do you handle the struggles of being apart from your family and loved ones when they are experiencing conflict in their countries?
I think that at least since the pandemic, everyone in the world has gone through a phase of doomscrolling at some point — so most people would probably relate to the fact I can’t look away from my newsfeeds when something as horrific as Kazakhstan’s Bloody January 2022 or the war in Ukraine comes up. As a student in our department, I know better than to plunge into catastrophizing, of course, and I use many techniques for calming down and refocusing — be it meditation, walks, or breathing exercises. Yet, as much as I refocus to continue my research, falling into rabbit holes is inevitable. So sometimes I have to pause my daily life in Bloomington and transport myself mentally back home. The most helpful thing is keeping in touch with my family members over video chats. Seeing their faces and speaking one of my mother tongues brings me peace.
Is there anything we can do as a department to continue supporting you or to better support you?
Frankly, the department’s atmosphere is quite enough for me to go through the day. I have a great relationship with my advisor, and I think that PBS does a great job at making me feel like I have people to go to with questions or concerns. In my opinion, there are many lines of communication open for me to be heard.

Director of Communications & Media