and Alumni Spotlight
Spotlight on: Paul Hudson (SCATS 2010, VAMPY 2011-13, Gatton 2013-5, Counselor 2015)
Leandra and Paul
Paul Hudson graduated from the University of Alabama-Huntsville in 2018 with a degree in electrical engineering, computer engineering, and optical engineering. He is a hardware/firmware engineer for Pulvinar Neuro in Durham, NC. He has joined the ranks of campers and counselors who met their spouses at VAMPY because he is engaged to fellow alum Leandra Caywood (VAMPY 2010-13), whom he met in his first year at camp. She is working on her Ph.D. in chemical engineering at North Carolina State University. He is on Facebook as Paul Hudson
Where have you been spending the pandemic?
I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, at the beginning of February. My fiancé, Leandra Caywood (VAMPY 2010-13), had been living here in an apartment on a grad student salary, so I moved in, and we’ll upgrade in a couple more months. It was weird going from not seeing her regularly for eight months and then we're stuck in this apartment together!
Tell me about what school was like for you growing up and what regular school was like for you.
I grew up in a small town called Fairdealing. It’s east of Benton, in Marshall County. I went to the public schools — they were very flexible, so I was thankful for that. For a lot of my time there, I didn't have a good crowd that I was able to hang around with consistently, but as far as schooling went, from kindergarten on, they let me take advanced math classes, they let me take advanced reading classes — whatever I needed.
What was your first association with The Center for Gifted Studies?
My late grandmother, Kay Willis, was a teacher and was good friends with Dr. Roberts.
What do you remember about SCATS?
I was so happy to go to the camps every time I went. The first time, when I went to SCATS, I was surprised at how fun the classes were, because obviously you pitch this to a kid as, “You're going to a summer camp where you're going to be taking classes for two weeks.” One of the classes I took had a great title — it was Geology and the Movies. We discussed geological concepts and watched movies and tried to see how movies got it right or wrong. I also took a class on Pearl Harbor and a class on the Holocaust. They were all so interesting. I had never been in a situation where I’d been exposed to so much knowledge so quickly, and I really enjoyed it.
What about VAMPY?
VAMPY was even better than SCATS for me because at VAMPY I met some really good friends. I felt so at home. After the first year, I had to beg my parents to let me go back the next two years year because they wanted to be fair to my sister who only went one year — but then she said, “I don't care what he does.”
I had so much fun, and there were a lot of great people whom I met there whom I would have never met otherwise — and of course, my fiancé and I met there. Class time took up most of the day, but it didn't feel like class was what most of the VAMPY experience was. I got to learn and got a lot of good stuff out of those classes — after I took Math, my school district let me move on to calculus — but VAMPY also helped me grow as a person. Before I went to camp, my middle school teachers called me “squirrely.” I was the smart kid in class. I was kind of friends with a lot of people, but not good friends with many. It gave me a really good outlet.
What was it like being a counselor after you had been a camper?
I loved it. After being a camper for three years, I got a sense for how the camp is run, and everything that's going on and what the camp experience should feel like. I really enjoyed being able to give that experience to younger campers. I hope they enjoyed having me as a counselor. I still talk to two of my campers and play video games with them. One of them has graduated college and the other has almost graduated.
What started you in the direction of study you pursued and the career path you are on?
I was lucky enough while I was at Marshall County to take a pre-electrical engineering class. I thought it was neat. While I was at Gatton, I took electrical engineering classes, and it was those classes that really set me on this course because WKU was really good for beginning electrical engineering. They had a lot of hands-on lab experiences — I was able to completely design a circuit, from start to finish, and make it on a printed circuit board before I was even a college student. I also loved all the math and computer science classes I took at Gatton — the computer science classes were more eye-opening than almost anything else I took. Uta Ziegler, the computer science professor, drove home that computer science was basically a lot of logic puzzles, and programming languages are just syntax to solve those puzzles. I love that concept. It's helped shape my career and what I wanted to do — it’s what drove me into doing both electrical and computer engineering as an undergraduate.
And now you're working on some cutting edge biotechnology for Pulvinar Neuro in Durham, NC. Tell me about that.
Before I joined Pulvinar Neuro, I was working for a missile defense contractor in Huntsville, AL. I wanted to get out of the industry, and I also needed to move to Raleigh so I could live with my fiancé. I had always been interested in biotech and biomedical applications because that's where a lot of interesting work is done in my field. I happened across a startup company that was hiring in the Raleigh area and where I could do some hardware and some software and be able to freely design what they needed. I’m thankful that the work is so applicable and important.
When I started working for Pulvinar Neuro, it already had a rough, research version of its device that does two things, and— transcranial alternating current stimulation tACS and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Psychologists are researching to see if tACS can be used to treat different conditions in the brain like Parkinson's, depression, anxiety, and other illnesses. The thinking is that your brain has regular electric waves to make it work right, and certain people have deficiencies in some of these signals, based on chemical deficiencies in their brains. If we can pinpoint the signal deficiency in their brain, if we can read what's going on and then apply a current — a wave — to jumpstart that signal, we could use the device to treat those brain conditions.
A lot of people have tried to label transcranial stimulation as New Age shock therapy, but the device is at a very low current that is not noticeable to the patient. We have safeguards in place so that if the current ever became too intense, the device would stop. Right now, the device is made to do basic T-ACS and T-DCS in double-blind research studies. What I'm doing upgrading the software and hardware for the second version. We're working on getting it to read an EEG from the brain, so it can detect those signals and apply the stimulation that might be needed.
Is there anything else you want to share about your experiences at camp or your life?
I want to drive home that the connections I made at camp and at Gatton have lasted longer than others. There's still a group of people that I talk to from Gatton, and a lot of those people I knew from VAMPY beforehand. The programs opened up so many doors to me — I first learned about Gatton from SCATS, and when I was moving to Raleigh, I already had connections here with a former camp counselor and a fellow camper. The programs have been more instrumental than I could have ever imagined.
Past interviews can be found in our Alumni Spotlight Archive.
(posted June 9, 2020)
Erin Anderson (SCATS 2006, VAMPY 2007) graduated from Rice University in 2016 with a BS in bioengineering. She is now working on a PhD in bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, “studying how individual brain connectivity and head-impact history influence concussion likelihood.” She is on Twitter at @erinanderson371.
Amelia Gordon Barker (VAMPY 1990-92) graduated from Furman University in 1999 with a BA in Spanish and a BS in chemistry. She is currently working on a BA in sociology from Southern New Hampshire State University. She is a forensic scientist specialist for the Kentucky State Police. She writes, “I have been a forensic drug chemist for 20 years. In the face of upcoming civil service retirement, I am looking at a career change to case management for special needs families. I am the step-mom to two young women (ages 19 and 21) and the adoptive mom of three boys (aged 9, 7, and 3 ), two of whom have special needs.
Brandon Betz (SCATS 2002) received a BA in music education from Kent State University in 2012. He is a music teacher at The Learning Community School in Asheville, NC.
He writes, “I teach music at a small, outdoor education-focused private school in North Carolina. I also assist in the 4/5 classroom and drive the school bus. We focus on a well-rounded, social and emotional education as well as academics. We also spend as much time in nature and on camping trips as possible! I moved to Asheville shortly after graduating from college. I love the mountains and the city, and it is a perfect fit for me! I am so lucky to have found a beautiful little school to teach music with, and a community of folks who fill my heart up each day. I remember SCATS very well. It was the first time I spent an extended amount of time away from home and I remember not wanting to leave. I loved the independence and choosing courses of study that interested me!”
He is on Facebook as Brandon Betz and on Instagram at @toonhewnballoon.
Zach Brooks (SCATS 1988) graduated from the University of Louisville in 2008 with degrees in health & human performance and in sports administration. He is the executive director of development for the University of Louisville Athletic Association.
Lauren Huddleston (VAMPY 2004-05) studied at Vanderbilt University, earning a BS in English literature and secondary education in 2011 and an MEd in learning and instruction in 2012. She is currently working on her EdD in educational leadership and policy at Vanderbilt and expects to finish in 2021. She teaches English to middle schoolers at the Hutchinson School in Memphis.
She writes, "This spring I was awarded a Belz-Lipman Award for Holocaust Education. I've been teaching Holocaust literature to students for the past eight years; my interest in the Holocaust and stories surrounding that time was encouraged by the Holocaust class I took with Ron Skillern at VAMPY."
The Belz-Lipman Holocaust Educator Award is sponsored by the Tennessee Holocaust Commission and recognizes outstanding educators in the field of Holocaust education. Lauren plans to use her award to sponsor a professional development opportunity through Facing History and Ourselves that will enable other Memphis teachers to receive high-quality training to teach the Holocaust
She is on Twitter at @L_Huddleston and blogs on Edutopia.org as Lauren Huddleston.
Dr. Anjali Malik (VAMPY 1995-98) received her BA in public health-natural studies from Johns Hopkins University and her MD from Tulane University School of Medicine, where she was chosen for the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. During her second year of medical school, she endured the hardship and displacement from Hurricane Katrina, an experience which shaped much of her career and delivery of care. She did her residency at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and a Brem Fellowship at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Medical Faculty Associates. She is now a board-certified, fellowship-trained breast imaging radiologist and women’s health advocate practicing at Washington Radiology in Washington, DC. She is also on the faculty for the Departments of Radiology and Obstetrics and Gynecology for Virginia Commonwealth University-Inova Campus. Additionally, she serves on the Medical Advisory Commmittee of Bright Pink, a national non-profit through which she educates young women and their providers on breast and ovarian cancer. She also educates and empowers through her social media platforms and is a frequent speaker on health literacy, advocacy, and utilization of social media in medicine.
She is on Instagram at @AnjaliMalikMD and Twitter at @AnjaliMalikMD and has a website at anjalimalikmd.com.
Amy Moore Meeron (VAMPY 1996-98) earned a BS in math-secondary education from Centre College in 2004; an MA in secondary education (math), learning and behavioral disorders, from Bellarmine University; and an MA in school counseling from Spaulding University. She is a school counselor at duPont Manual High School in Louisville.
Lauren Snead Montefusco (VAMPY 1999-2001) is an information systems developer at Geeks and Nerds in Huntsville, AL. She received a BA in Spanish from Middle Tennessee State University in 2010. She was recently in the news for taking the initiative of using her workplace machines to 3D-print face shields for frontline COVID-19 workers. According to local news station WTSP, Lauren said, “My mother is a nurse. My favorite sister-in-law is also on the front lines … It's for the good of the community. We all need to keep nurses and doctors safe, but there is that personal element for me as well. Knowing I could potentially keep my mom safe is huge.”
Isaac Spradlin (VAMPY 1992-94) received a BA in humanities (20th century culture) from the University of Louisville and an MA from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications (Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications). He is the communications manager at Commonwealth Theatre Center in Louisville.
He writes, “My experience at VAMPY was formative, intellectually and personally. I met friends who’ve been in my life ever since, and I realized the kind of person I wanted to be in the world. Self-discovery means finding a place, a culture, a tribe. And that discovery is so critical for young people. VAMPY gave me that and the encouragement to stay curious and engaged in the world. I’m still in touch with peers from VAMPY, and I always feel like I have the measure of someone who also went through the program, even if they weren’t there when I was.”
He is on Twitter at @ispradlin and Facebook as Isaac Spradlin
Jordan White (SCATS 2011) graduated this spring from Northern Kentucky University (NKU) with a major in political science and a minor in pre-law. While a student, he took on many roles, including student pilot for Enrollment and Student Success; student assistant in the College of Health Professions; intern at the Kentucky Council of Churches in Lexington; member of the Curriculum Implementation Team for the Success by Design Strategic Framework, mentor in the Latino Mentoring Program; a brother in Sigma Phi Epsilon KY-Eta SLC; and a senator in the Student Government Association the Association of Campus Residents. His awards include the William Lamb Leadership Award from NKU’s Student Government Association, a Gold and White Gratitude Award: Outstanding Sophomore of the Year from NKU’s Office of Student Engagement, and KY-Eta’s Legacy Award 2020 from the KY-Eta SLC Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity at NKU. He is currently looking into new opportunities and hopes to work for a governmental organization.