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Lycoming undergrads present at conference

On April 25, 2021, three Lycoming College students presented their research at the Lehigh Valley Society for Neuroscience Undergraduate Research Conference. Annabelle Brinkerhoff ’21, Katie Moon ’21 and Emily Frantz ’21 were among 18 other students selected to present at this year’s virtual conference.

Founded in 2009, the Lehigh Valley chapter of the Society for Neuroscience (LVSfN) is part of the largest professional organization dedicated to the field of neuroscience around the globe. Every spring, the LVSfN holds a conference for undergraduate research. According to the chapter’s webpage, the event “celebrates the scholarly work of our undergraduates and their faculty mentors in the disciplines of neuroscience, psychology and philosophy of mind.”

In a year of unprecedented challenges for academic researchers, celebration and recognition is well deserved. After a keynote address by Drexel University professor Jacqui Barker, Ph.D., conference attendees broke out into sessions for undergraduate presentations.

Brinkerhoff presented her research titled, “Validating Sholl analysis of Purkinje cell morphology using MetaMorph software,” for which she was awarded Lycoming College’s Haberberger Fellowship Grant. Under the mentorship of biology and neuroscience professor Mary Morrison, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology and neuroscience program co-coordinator, this research improved upon a software algorithm for measuring cell growth and developed a lab manual to make this kind of analysis more accessible. Using the new algorithm, time spent analyzing a cell decreased from 20 minutes to three to five minutes. Annabelle was president of her senior class and a varsity athlete. She graduated with a biology major and Spanish minor and will continue her education at the Penn State University Park Medical School.

Moon’s research, “MAP kinase pathway regulation of Purkinje neuron survival,” studied the survival rate of this particular cell in a mouse model for human cerebellar ataxia. Morrison also served as mentor in this study. Katie graduated with a neuroscience major and biology minor and this summer she will be completing a neuroscience research internship in Florida before applying to neuroscience Ph.D. programs.

Frantz’s research, titled “Can self-esteem impact color choice? Using the Manchester Color wheel to determine color choice differences,” was completed with mentors Sarah Holstein, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience program co-coordinator and Tina Norton, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology and department chair. Studying the relationships between depression, self-esteem and color choice, Frantz’s research contributes to the understanding of how depression alters daily functioning and perception.

“These three students demonstrated perseverance and resiliency by continuing their research projects at Lycoming despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Morrison. “I am proud to have helped them to grow and prepare for their future careers.”

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