Kostandina Bicja ’23

Striving for a better understanding of the brain and its disorders
UNH student Kostandina Bicja '23

Kostandina Bicja is a neuroscience and behavior major and psychology minor from Manchester, New Hampshire. She is also a first-generation college student whose family immigrated to the U.S. shortly before she was born. Both of Kostandina’s older siblings also graduated from UNH.

Kostandina recently completed a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), during which she studied the postnatal primary cilia development pattern in the hippocampal CA3 in Professor Xuanmao Chen’s lab.

COLSA: Why did you choose UNH?

Kostandina Bicja: When I enrolled at UNH, I knew there would be endless opportunities to extend my education past the classroom. I have always been interested in applying my knowledge in a way that matters. With UNH being an R1 school, research is encouraged and very easy to get involved with.

During my freshman year, I quickly took an interest in one of my professor's research labs, and that led to me completing a SURF project this summer with him as my faculty mentor. Along with various other extracurricular experiences, UNH makes well-rounded students that are equipped with the skills necessary to succeed in all future endeavors. I feel prepared for life after graduation, and I am confident in my ability to reach my professional goals.

The most interesting aspect of my major is that new discoveries are constantly happening in the field of neuroscience. There is always more to learn and investigate. It is an exciting, ever-expanding field with many dimensions.

COLSA: What's your major and what makes it so interesting to you?

Kostandina: I am majoring in neuroscience and behavior, and I also plan on adding a psychology minor. In high school, biology and psychology were two of my favorite classes. I had a strong inclination toward the sciences but I was also deeply intrigued by the realm of psychology and the brain. Neuroscience and behavior is a perfect combination of the two; it requires lots of foundational knowledge in biology and chemistry, but it puts that knowledge in the context of the nervous system.

My major gives me the opportunity to pick from a wide range of upper-level electives that tackle subjects like memory, cognition, behavior, disorders and drugs, examining them through a systematic evaluation of evidence and research. The most interesting aspect of my major is that new discoveries are constantly happening in the field of neuroscience. We are far from having a comprehensive understanding of the brain and how it functions. There is always more to learn and investigate. It is an exciting, ever-expanding field with many dimensions.

COLSA: During your time at UNH, what are you most proud of?

Kostandina: I am most proud of my involvement with neuroscience research and completing a SURF project. I have gained many new valuable skills and become familiar with the whole process of carrying out research, including writing a proposal, running experiments, finding and analyzing results, and revising my approach when necessary. In addition to my personal gains, I feel proud to be contributing to a field that ultimately strives for a better understanding of the brain and its disorders, with a goal of improving lives. It is important to remember that research happens in increments, and even small findings can bear significance for the scientific community.

COLSA: What do you love most about UNH?

Kostandina: Aside from the educational experiences UNH has provided me, I really value the relationships I have built with my peers and professors. I never imagined I would fit into this community so well. I also love our scenic campus! I am from New Hampshire, so I have always appreciated seeing the foliage change through all four seasons. I enjoy walking to my classes, especially in the fall.