Neuroscience major Connor Alder has had amazing research opportunities throughout his time at BYU, including going to Africa to help babies with a premature eye disease.
Growing up a big-time BYU fan, Connor Alder (NEURO ‘23) always knew he would attend BYU. “There wasn’t even really another option,” Alder says. Going into neuroscience, however, was a decision that came later, after his LDS mission to Portugal.
“I was thinking I wanted to do medicine—I've got a lot of doctors in my family—but I just wasn’t sure yet,” Alder says. After exploring various options, he says nothing felt as right as going into neuroscience. He plans on applying for medical school after graduation.
Alder valued the early experience he had working with BYU’s Dr. Julie Valentine, the associate dean for the College of Nursing, whose research focuses on improving interdisciplinary practice and policy to decrease sexual violence and create healthier communities. The project opened Alder’s eyes to public health issues and led him to a summer internship in Sub-Saharan Africa, which includes Rwanda and Uganda. There he had the opportunity to help with a growing epidemic of retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP, an eye disease that affects prematurely born infants. “It was really rewarding to be there, meet the people, and see the kind of circumstances they face,” Alder says. His team collected visual outcome data from the hospitals, interviewed NICU nurses, and donated equipment to try and reduce ROP in Sub-Saharan Africa.
One of his favorite parts of the experience was getting to know the friendly hospital staff so well. One of the nurses even invited him to her traditional Ugandan wedding.
He loved that he was able to present his research recently at a conference in New York held by the American Academy of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus.
Alder’s research and education have strengthened his testimony in Heavenly Father as our Creator. He reflects, “It’s incredible to think that we were designed by Heavenly Father with this much detail." He says his time in Africa helped him develop more compassion, which is a central point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “It’s really all about just loving people,” Alder says.