Alexa was an NBA cheerleader for the Orlando Magic. In 2013, she participated in our Pop Warner events at Disney/ESPN’s Wide World of Sports then she led Project MERCCURI activities at the St. Petersburg Science Festival. On Wednesday, December 11, she will join other Science Cheerleaders from the Magic and Miami Dolphins to make a big announcement. Which microbes collected by Pop Warner teams will be heading to the International Space Station!?! Find out Wednesday! 🙂
What turned you on to science, Alexa?
I was always interested in science, even at a young age. My love for science really blossomed around the 4th grade when my mom bought me a “do-it-yourself” experiment book. The book was filled with recipes and projects that showed me how scientific processes worked. I would spend every weekend conducting experiments and making concoctions, it was so much fun!
What is your degree in and from where?
I graduated in May 2012 with my B.S. in Psychology and am now pursuing my Board Certification in Neurological Therapy.
What got you interested in studying psychology?
Psychology sparked my interest when I took a general psychology course my freshman year of college. I knew right away how interested I was in the science of people and their behavior.
Best part of your day job or studies?
Currently working with patients as a Neurofeedback specialist and Neurological Therapist, I get the opportunity everyday to help heal people emotionally and physically. Healing the brain can be a very powerful thing and to know I am helping make those changes in someone’s life is wonderful.
What is the general flow of your work?
Neurofeedback is training for your brain. Just like when someone goes to the gym or exercises to get in shape, we use neurofeedback to get someone’s brain in shape. We use electrodes, which are little silver discs to monitor brain waves. If a person’s brain waves are not at tip top performance, we help them strengthen that area of the brain to function better. Neurofeedback is an up and coming science and we are working to make the therapy a well known alternative to medications for mental disorders.
What does your career mean to you?
I believe that science is one of, if not the most important field of study for everyone to be involved in. You do not have to be a scientist to think like one. As long as you approach life with curiosity and seek answers to your questions in life, you are living scientifically. I think the importance of science is that it is ALWAYS changing and developing. It is very exciting to know that scientists will continue to better our world by constantly discovering new information. I hope that I can contribute to this continuous movement of science because the more knowledge we have, we become stronger human beings.
You cheered for the Orlando Magic. Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
I have been dancing and performing since I was very young and so becoming an Orlando Magic Dancer gave me the opportunity to continue doing something I love. Being a part of the NBA and making connections with the fans of the Magic was an experience like no other!
How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your science career?
Performing has given me the confidence to believe in myself and know that if I want to pursue a dream, whether it be dance/cheerleading or science, I can do it! It has also given me incredible discipline and focus which are two vital qualities necessary for being a successful student.
There are stereotypes about cheerleaders in our society that make it seem unlikely that a cheerleader could be a scientist. Obviously these stereotypes are untrue, and you are a great example of that. How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders?
As someone with a psychology background, I know how easy it is for people to allow stereotypes to cloud their judgement. It is so important for us to break these stereotypes of cheerleaders and dancers. Women continue to face obstacles in a career driven world and it is incredibly important for groups like this one to show young women that there is NO limit on what they can accomplish. Being versatile and unique is the greatest asset one could ever have.
Best science-related experience?
When I first began studying neurofeedback, we had a patient who suffered from a stroke, lost his eye sight in one eye and could no longer drive. He had lost so much of his freedom and ability to live a normal life. After a few months of retraining the area of his brain that suffered damage from the stroke, he regained his eyesight and was able to begin driving again. It is moments like these that make me more than proud to be considered a scientist. Helping people heal and find happiness again after a trauma is the most rewarding feeling.
If you could rewind the clock and change your degree, would you? If so, to what and why? If not, why not?
I would not change my degree, but I might take on an additional minor or program in the communications/business field. I am firm believer in being well rounded and so having additional schooling in a field outside of science could be beneficial.
What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
“Do not be afraid…Do what you love to do and enjoy every minute of it. Life is a beautiful gift and we should take advantage of every opportunity to shine!”
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I am a big jokester! I love to be silly and make people laugh! Most people who have not met me may not realize it but I love being able to be both a serious scientist and a fun-loving girl!
Apart from work and cheering, what are some of your favorite activities?
I love to cook and bake! One day I think it would be so fun to own a restaurant with my family. I also enjoy working out, yoga, pilates and boxing. Any outdoor activities like camping, skiing, or even just going to the beach are some of my favorites!
What are your plans for the future?
In the next year I plan to continue my education and start graduate school for my masters degree. After that I hope to start building a life where I get to continue both of my passions of arts and science.
Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
Science Cheerleaders are challenging stereotypes and showing the world that talented young women can be smart and career oriented too! I know how important it was to have a strong female role model and I would love to be the same role model for girls that want to nurture their love for both cheerleading and their studies! I want girls to know its okay to standout… Dare to be different!