Wellington’s Claudia Cabral Heads To MIT

Claudia Cabral

“Mens et Manus” is the motto of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Very simply, it translates as “Mind and Hand.” It suggests that education at its core should not be for the sole sake of scholarly enlightenment but rather have tangible implications, enabling discoveries and advancements in practical knowledge that directly impact society in a positive way.

Claudia Cabral of Wellington embodies the very essence of these ideals, and she will soon be joining MIT’s ranks.

For most, reminiscing about high school evokes flashbacks of typical milestones and events that were important to the teenage versions of ourselves. For Cabral, a recent graduate of Suncoast High School, her high school journey includes some rather extraordinary experiences and accomplishments.

While Cabral’s exceptional grades and demanding course load alone are clear indications of her intelligence and determination, it’s what she does in her free time that truly showcases her passions.

In addition to a busy academic schedule, Cabral is president of two charitable organizations focusing on local and extended community outreach. Hugs and Kisses Club raises money to assist local cancer patients, while Two Feet Club tackles a diverse set of social issues in creative ways. Through the combined efforts of these two organizations, Cabral has raised money and promoted awareness for issues like foster care, Syrian refugees, victims of domestic violence, people with mental disabilities and others.

Last November, Cabral was recognized as a “Future Lady of Grace” by the Bethesda Hospital Foundation for her outstanding work in philanthropy. Due to her remarkable accomplishments and merit, she was selected as one of only six interns to participate in the 2017 High School Summer Research Program at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI).

Each summer, MPFI offers aspiring, young scientists an immersive laboratory experience where local students have the opportunity to work side-by-side with world-class neuroscientists. As a part of the six-week internship, students along with their mentors, design and execute a high-level research project that culminates into a presentation of their work.

After participating in the MPFI internship, students continue their education at some of the most elite universities, further developing their skills in outstanding STEM programs across the nation.

Poised and articulate, Cabral delivered an engaging final presentation on her work in the Schummers’ lab studying the phenomenon called visual contrast adaptation. This process describes the brain’s ability to acclimate to new surroundings and respond quickly to any changes in it. Although studied previously, the exact mechanisms that drive this process are unknown. Through her work, Cabral both engineered a computational algorithm that could precisely model the events, as well as proposed astrocytes as being the cell type responsible.

Moving forward with her education at MIT and beyond, Cabral sees herself as a biomedical engineer and neuroscientist, innovating technology to help treat people with movement disorders like Parkinson’s, ALS and essential tremor. Staying true to her philanthropic side, she hopes to continue public outreach, engaging in speaking and fundraising events, giving back to her local communities and abroad. There is no one better suited to take up the mantle of the simple but profound motto “Mens et Manus.”