Roadrunner earns Fulbright Scholarship

Biology graduate Spencer Shute will study cognitive neuroscience in the Netherlands.

By Siet Wright

April 27, 2020

Spencer Shute

Spencer Shute never considered himself an ideal student. Shute struggled in high school and into his early college days at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Things changed, however, when the biology major decided to “hack” his brain to build healthy work habits that would help him succeed.

And succeed he has. Shute, an MSU Denver biology graduate, is on his way to earning a master’s degree in cognitive neuroscience at Radboud University in the Netherlands, thanks partly to a Fulbright Scholarship.

“My ultimate ambition in life is to develop an understanding of the mind,” said Shute. “This ambition has inspired me to travel and understand the perspectives of others.”

Broad curiosity and an interest in science initially compelled Shute to consider careers in STEM, with the long-term goal of applying for medical school, but a leadership experience in high school piqued his interest in cognitive neuroscience. While observing a group of middle-school students in an outdoor-education program, Shute was told to “watch out” for the students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), who were described as impulsive and inattentive. Noting the behavioral differences between ADHD students and neurotypical students eventually led him to work as a tutor and academic coach for learning-disabled students.

Shute now believes research into the neurophysiology of ADHD and associated disorders will quickly lead to important discoveries in childhood development, education and looming issues of mental health.

“We must not underestimate the pervasive afflictions of the mind that plague so many families and communities. But more importantly, we must not underestimate the profound progress that can be made should we decide to tackle such afflictions together,” he said.

With the help of the Fulbright Scholarship, Shute will study neural structure and function, focusing on the relationship among the brain, environment and behaviors. He also wants to immerse himself in an entirely new culture, share his own and carry what he’ll learn into his life and career.

“Such pursuits also define a personal mission to understand my world and feed a driving hunger for personal growth and self-improvement – no longer for myself but for my students, family and community,” he wrote in his Fulbright submission.

Shute attributes his success to the support of his family, friends and mentors at MSU Denver. In particular, he wishes to thank his academic mentors, biology Professors Clare Hays, DVM, and Jeff Simpson, D.C.

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