Analytics at Wharton

Student Spotlight

Renée Creppy Combines Passion for Neuroscience and Soccer During MindCORE Summer Fellowship Program

Renée Creppy is a junior at Xavier University of Louisiana, the only historically Black and Catholic university in the country, where she is earning a double major in neuroscience and French. Creppy was among 23 students who recently completed the MindCORE Summer Fellowship Program, a paid 10-week program at Penn that is open to outstanding undergrads. Summer fellows are matched with select mindCORE faculty in interdisciplinary mind and brain studies. Together with their mentors, students embark on a research project shaped by their interests.

Renée Creppy presenting research to peers

Creppy’s project examined three factors that influence how soccer goalies respond to an opposing player during a penalty kick. In a dynamic setting like a soccer game, it’s critical for athletes to process information that will inform their next move. If the player always shoots to the right, should the goalie move in that direction? If the player likes to bounce the ball off his head five times before making his move, will he do that this time?

With the help of her mentors, Creppy designed a survey that she called the Action Anticipation Scale, which enabled her to gather and analyze data on how much predicting, planning, and reacting goes into each move a goalie makes during a penalty kick. She said she was surprised to discover that athletes don’t rely on just one of the categories. Instead, they combine all three – predicting, planning, and reacting – with the last two taking a larger role in informing their actions.

“I thought of people in general as being predictors, planners, or reactors. But we found these are not distinct things but components that work together,” Creppy said.

We asked Creppy to tell us more about herself and describe her fellowship experience. Keep reading for her answers:

You’re majoring in both neuroscience and French, which isn’t a typical pairing. Why did you choose these fields?

I found out about neuroscience in a very accidental way. When I was a junior in high school, I got a concussion. I fell and hit my head on the stairs. I went to the doctor, and she was explaining everything that happened. I was in pain, but I was also intrigued by what she was saying about the brain. Just her describing what happened made me interested. She knew I was going to college soon, and she said I might want to study psychology or neuroscience or something in that realm.

French, well, that’s a passion project. I just like it. I think it’s the type of classes I got to take. In college, we got to watch French films, and talk about literature and analyze another culture, and I like analytical things. The food is good, too!

Why did you choose to attend Xavier University of Louisiana?

I’m from Kokomo, Indiana, and there were five other kids who were Black in my grade. I went to a lot of honors classes, and as I got higher, I noticed I was one of the only few Black people. I wanted to go somewhere where I would find a lot of people like me with similar dreams and aspirations.

My family is from Ghana. Both of my parents came here for school. My dad is an electrical engineer and came to do a master’s degree and stayed for work. My mom studied social work. They met at Tuskegee University. I have a younger sister, Angela, and younger brother, Robert. My sister wants to be an architect and my brother is really into sports and also wants to study psychology.

I’ve been to Ghana three times, twice when I was young and in 2019. My dad wanted me to go before I graduated high school. We went to visit family in Ghana and England, and I really enjoyed it. Being able to be around my grandparents and other relatives was really fun because I did not grow up with them.

What inspired your research project?

Growing up, I used to watch a lot of soccer with my dad. He used to play and was a goalkeeper. Soccer is a very big thing in Ghana and the rest of the world. He would show me the tactics, so that’s where my love of sports came from. I was never a good athlete like my brother, but I do like to analyze it.

Who was your program mentor?

My mentor this summer was Nick Angelides [post-doc researcher at the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative] and he was very supportive. One of my favorite things about working with him and all the people in the lab was they didn’t treat us like students, they treated us like scientists. He wanted me to take ownership of my project. He walked me through R [a programming language used by statisticians] and how to do data analysis, and I got to learn firsthand what it’s like to be a research assistant. I met with him a few times throughout the day over course of the fellowship to talk about my project and any new updates or things that I should be aware of.

How will you use this experience going forward?

I think my biggest takeaway from the program is that research is something I actually I enjoy a lot more than I thought I would have, so I’m excited to go back to Xavier with all the new skills I have and learn another project and apply them there.

What are your career goals?

I’m still on a path, on a journey. But I think after being at Penn, I can see myself pursuing neuroscience further. I would like to keep doing things related to the project that I did and combine neuroscience and sports, or apply neuroscience to help people. That would be the goal.

What’s your advice to other underrepresented students about pursuing their dreams?

I want you to remember that seat at the table is for you. You have to remember that you are good. Not everyone is going to pick you. If someone picks you for something, maybe you don’t see it, maybe you have imposter syndrome, but they see it. There is something there worth developing.

Wharton Neuroscience Initiative

The Wharton Neuroscience Initiative is a community of faculty, undergraduates, graduate and professional students, and staff interested in connecting brain science and business. They believe new neuroscience areas of exploration can be translated to improve business, drive new discoveries and applications, and enhance the education of future leaders at the nexus of business and brain science.