September 2023 - The 2nd Cohort of the ETSI Science Research Internship Program Starts at Northwestern University

This September, three monastic students travelled to Evanston, Illinois to participate in a two-month research internship program at Northwestern University. This internship focuses on providing more in-depth training in both theory and methodology of neuroscience research, giving the monastics their first experience of working in an actual state-of-the-art research lab.

This year’s training will be overseen by three professors of psychology at Northwestern University. They are Dr. Ken Paller, Dr. Marcia Grabowecky, and Dr. Robin Nusslock, who is also a dedicated co-leader of the ETSI Research Unit.

The interns are being trained in three sections:

  1. The neuroscience of emotion, stress, and health, directed by Robin Nusslock.
  2. The neuroscience of perception and attention, directed by Marcia Grabowecky.
  3. The neuroscience of sleep and dreaming, directed by Ken Paller.

Dr. Ken Paller shared his view on the program:


“Although a central goal was to provide them with hands-on training in cognitive neuroscience, at the same time this was the beginning of a new collaborative research project. The scholars are now part of a team of investigators focusing on the practices of Tibetan Dream Yoga. This work is continuing both in my lab in Evanston and in the parallel sleep lab now set up at the Drepung Meditation and Science Center, with additional collaborators in Virginia and Australia."

At Northwestern University, the Interns balance didactic classroom teaching on topics such as the neuroscience of emotion, memory, and sleep with practical application of electrophysiological and neuroimaging methods to understand the human brain.

“I’m very grateful to be involved in the Northwestern Neuroscience Internship Program again this year. It was a joy to work with the monastic scholars last year.”

Maximizing their experiential learning, the previous cohort led a research project on the electrophysiology of lucid dreaming, the state in which a person is asleep but fully aware they are dreaming. Professor Paller and his lab group pioneered techniques to communicate with subjects while in deep sleep, measuring subjects’ brain activity in the process. Monastics are always curious to demonstrate how practices such as meditation can have real visceral effects on the human brain that can be measured and recreated in peer reviewed studies.

 This is the second leg of a three-year internship that will oversee three separate cohorts of monastics over a span of three years. The current cohort of monastic students will quickly learn take lead of their own original research projects.

This year’s Science Research Interns are: Dawa Gyaltsen, from Sera Mey Monastery,

Stanzin Wangdan, from Drepung Gomang Monastery, and Geshe Lobsang Namgyal, from Gaden Shartse Monastery. They are joined by a Sustainability Phase lab support and science teacher, Ms. Tashi Lhamo.


 Research interns joined by Park Krausen and Defne Cezayirli, who have helped coordinate the internship since its inception.

 Working with professors at Northwestern University will not only familiarize the monastics with various imaging techniques but also allow the students to develop skills in planning and designing their own research—skills that they can help sustain the monastic science education.