A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Tizoc Perez-Casillas

By Mason Spirit contributor on April 4, 2009

Year: Senior
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Arlington, Virginia

In the Laboratory: Under Mason’s Undergraduate Apprenticeship Program, Tizoc Perez-Casillas is working with Professor Jane Flinn, the director of the undergraduate neuroscience program. Flinn’s research focuses on the effects of trace metals on age-related macular degeneration, including Perez-Casillas’s project examining the effects of these same trace metals on memory and learning in Long Evans rats.

Why This Study Is Important: Currently, it is recommended that people with advanced age-related macular degeneration ingest zinc supplements to help their vision. The data from this study are expected to suggest that taking zinc supplements may hamper memory and may not be beneficial to adults taking such supplements.

A Love of Neuroscience: The psychology major became hooked on neuroscience and biopsychology after taking a brain and behavior class. “The brain intrigues me. I am interested in why people act and behave a certain way and the chemical processes that occur in the brain.”

Extinction Is Not Just for Dinosaurs: Often, the word “extinction” brings to mind images of Tyrannosaurus rex. When Perez-Casillas talks about extinction, he’s speaking about a type of learning. Extinction in psychology refers to the lower probability of a certain response when a characteristic-reinforcing stimulus is no longer present— in other words, a kind of forgetting.

The Family Practice: When not writing his honors thesis or tending the rats, Perez-Casillas is studying for the LSAT. And he doesn’t need a study buddy—he has his brother, who attends George Washington University and is also studying for the LSAT. Since he was a child, Perez-Casillas has accompanied his mother, a lawyer, to court and watched her in action. He would one day like to be a litigator for the Commonwealth of Virginia and eventually take over his mother’s practice.

Diversity Matters: Perez-Casillas serves as the treasurer for the Psychology Student Diversity Affairs Committee. The committee holds events and shows films to promote diversity, specifically as it pertains to psychology issues. The committee recently held a viewing of the Oscar-winning film Crash to illustrate how although people are different, they share many commonalities. Besides, diversity hits close to the Perez-Casillas home. Perez-Casillas was born in Washington, D.C., but his father was born and reared in Venezuela and his mother, who is of Mexican descent, was born in Texas.

Motto to Live By: “My mother always says never give up and you can always be anything you want to be.”

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