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Honors Neuroscience Summer Research Academy: Psychology Labs

  • June 28, 2016
See how students working in psychology labs describe their experience in the Honors Neuroscience Summer Research Academy.
UAB's Honors Neuroscience Summer Research Academy offers intensive research experiences to rising junior and senior Neuroscience students, providing them with practical skills for a future in research and expert support to apply to competitive graduate programs in biomedical research.

Honors Neuroscience Summer Research Academy students and UNP directors, from left to right: Dr. Cristin Gavin, Dr. Scott Wilson, Remy Meir, Cooper Bailey, Mary-Elizabeth Winslett, Stacey Niver, Haley Edwards, Ben Boros, Courtney Walker, Danielle Hurst, Dr. David Knight, and Dr. Rajesh Kana

Honors Neuroscience Summer Research Academy group shot: From left to right: Dr. Cristin Gavin, Dr. Scott Wilson, Remy Meir, Cooper Bailey, Mary-Elizabeth Winslett, Stacey Niver, Haley Edwards, Ben Boros, Courtney Walker, Danielle Hurst, Dr. David Knight, and Dr. Rajesh Kana.
Participants in the 10-week program are actively conducting research in a primary faculty member’s lab on UAB’s campus and have demonstrated excellence in academic coursework, promise in basic laboratory skills, and expressed interest in further professional development.

Their award provides room and board for the summer and a research award (for the mentors) to support the student's work in the lab.

Eight students are participating in the Honors Neuroscience Summer Research Academy this summer. Four are working in psychology labs and four are working in School of Medicine labs (Neurobiology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology, and Neurology).

Here are the stories of the four students working in psychology labs this summer:

Remy Meir
I am currently working under Dr. Sorge in the Psychology Department at UAB. Last semester, I worked to show that the drug baclofen works synergistically with opioids, such as morphine and fentanyl, to create an analgesic effect. This summer, I am running conditioned place preference testing with mice in order to see if the drug baclofen works synergistically with opioids in the aspect of rewarding effect. What we hope to see is that the two drugs do not exhibit synergy in the rewarding effect. The desired outcome is evidence that these drugs work synergistically in pain relief, but not in rewarding effect in order for better administration of prescription opioids. I plan on pursuing a PhD in neuroscience following my undergraduate studies. This program is very beneficial to my future plans, because it establishes my love for research and gives me a strong research background that can only enhance my application for graduate schools. Research is such a valuable experience because all of science is dependent on what one does in the lab. The things we work on in our labs may seem small scale, but if something valuable is found that is the sort of information that the doctors and engineers then need to better their own field. I have loved this experience because I have gotten incredibly close to my lab mates and we have become a big family. I am also constantly learning new techniques that help me grow as a scientist and I could not be more thankful for such an incredible experience.

Mary-Elizabeth Winslett
Honors Neuroscience Summer Research Academy students working in psychology labs, left to right: Mary-Elizabeth Winslett, Cooper Bailey, Remy Meir, Danielle HurstHonors Neuroscience Summer Research Academy students working in psychology labs, left to right: Mary-Elizabeth Winslett, Cooper Bailey, Remy Meir, Danielle HurstMy research is focused on neuroimaging in a population with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). I do this research under the supervision of my mentor, Dr. Rajesh Kana, as part of the Department of Psychology’s Cognition, Brain, and Autism Laboratory. Specifically, I am conducting a quantitative meta-analysis of available literature related to facial/emotional processing in the fusiform gyrus (FG) in individuals with ASD as compared to typically developing individuals. The process involves hours of screening articles for relevant data, from which I will extract coordinates to run an activation-likelihood estimation (ALE). The results of this analysis will be interpreted with respect to the mid-fusiform sulcus (MFS) of the FG and will hopefully provide some insight into the characterization of this region in an ASD population. The summer research academy has provided me with the means to work on this project over the summer, allowing me the time to take on more responsibilities in the lab and conduct my research quite thoroughly. I intend to continue in the field of neuroimaging in ASD through graduate school and into a career. This opportunity allows me to spend time doing research in my specific area of interest and will hopefully segue well into positions doing similar research in the future.

Cooper Bailey
I work in Dr. Younger’s Neuroinflammation, Pain, and Fatigue lab in the Department of Psychology. The project I am working on currently involves searching for a potential biomarker for Chronic Fatigue Disorder as well as Fibromyalgia. We have had over 700 people express their interest in the study, and those that do elect to be in our study come to UAB for 25 days straight to get their blood drawn. Each day, the participant answers questionnaires on a tablet that the lab provides them. These questionnaires, along with the 25 blood samples for each participant, will ultimately allow us to compare blood chemistry on days when the participant states that they are feeling fine compared to days where the participant has a flare of pain and fatigue symptoms. Using this method, we hope to find a possible reliable biomarker for pain and fatigue levels, which would help take the ambiguity out of the doctor’s office when a patient has to describe to their physician what they are feeling. This summer research program will allow me to get the essential experience necessary to further my education in graduate school. My research experience has been absolutely wonderful, and it has taught me so many things that I cannot begin to imagine what I would have done without Dr. Younger’s lab. Interpersonal skills, on-the-fly problem solving, and dealing with pressing, stressful issues that arise in a calm and productive way are just a few of the skills my mentor, Kate Sides, has taught me. I hope that we will get valuable information out of our study to help the countless patients who are turned away from care because someone simply does not believe their symptoms are real. I have seen so many of our participants get hope back into their lives, knowing Dr. Younger is working to help them. Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity!

Danielle Hurst
My goals for this summer were all about becoming as prepared as possible for graduate school! I joined the UNP as a junior/senior with almost no research experience. I felt so unprepared to enter or even apply to graduate school. My experience so far this summer has been invaluable. At the end of the summer, I will have hundreds more hours of research experience than I had before. Spending more time in the lab has also given me more time to talk with my research mentor, Dr. David Knight, in the Psychology Department. I have been able to share with him my hopes and goals, as well as questions and concerns, for the future, and he has given me some truly great advice and guidance. I have really enjoyed being given the opportunity to spend so much more time on my personal project, investigating sex differences in Pavlovian fear conditioning. This experience has allowed me to become more confident in my ability to develop and explore my own hypotheses. I now feel as though I will have the tools that I need to be a competent independent researcher in my graduate studies.