Joel Greenup

Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

College/School: School of Integrated Science and Humanity; College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Joel Greenup is no stranger to adversity. He was born with spina bifida. He has undergone surgeries associated with a cerebrospinal fluid shunt inserted in his brain that alleviates symptoms of hydrocephalus and has undergone several more surgeries to treat broken bones and issues with his bladder and kidneys. One surgery to treat scoliosis when he was in the fifth grade left him unable to walk. 

While recovering from a surgery at age 6, Joel experienced something peculiar. His hospital room seemed to stretch before him. His arms grew. His mother shrank and appeared to move at super-speed. He became consumed by a sense of paranoia and tried futilely to unwrap his legs from his hospital blankets. 

This led to a new diagnosis – Alice in Wonderland Syndrome – and eventually a calling for Joel. Not much is known about the causes of the disorder and its symptoms, which mirror the experiences of Lewis Carroll’s protagonist in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Joel is looking to change that through a research project he is undertaking with the supervision of professor Bennett Schwartz and a neurosurgeon at a local hospital.

Getting to the place where he could make a difference hasn’t been easy. Joel overcame a difficult home environment and continues to battle bouts of depression. Today, he hopes to conclude his research project and help identify the illnesses shared by people with Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. Joel, an Honors College student who completed his bachelor’s degree in four years, also looks forward to one day earning a Ph.D. in neuroscience.

By Chrystian Tejedor