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Training your Brain for Neuroscience

Undergraduate Neuroscience Training Program for Diversity


The University of Colorado Denver, in collaboration with New Mexico State University, is proud to present an exciting opportunity for junior and senior undergraduate students to perform cutting edge neuroscience research in the state-of-the-art research facilities at the Anschutz Medical Campus Research facilities in Aurora, Colorado and at their home campus in Denver, Colorado or Las Cruces, New Mexico. As a recipient of the National Institutes of Health's multimillion dollar initiative Blueprint ENDURE (Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences), the BRAiN program aims to raise interest and opportunities in neuroscience research for individuals who are typically underrepresented in the field. Specifically, BRAiN is designed for the budding undergraduate scientist who is from an underrepresented population and who is interested in pursuing a graduate degree (PhD) in neuroscience.

BRAiN is supported by NIH award R25GM097633 to Diego Restrepo (UCD) and Elba Serrano (NMSU).

Program Description

This program is for undergraduate students interested in pursuing a graduate degree in neuroscience. Students in this program will have the opportunity to participate in research in a lab at their home campus. They will also be introduced to basic neuroscience topics through a journal club seminar. In the summer, students will begin an eight week, PAID summer research internship at the University of Colorado Denver's state-of-the-art research campus at the Anschutz Medical Campus. During the summer internship, students will work with a neuroscience mentor in a biomedical research lab and receive hands-on training in neuroscience techniques and research. Students will also attend a weekly course designed to introduce basic neuroscience topics. Students will also learn how to apply to a neuroscience graduate program and how to communicate in science. After the Summer Internship, students will have the opportunity to attend the national Society for Neuroscience's Annual meeting.

To apply, students must be enrolled full time at the University of Colorado Denver Downtown Campus or at New Mexico State University and have at least 3 semesters left before graduation. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups; individuals with disabilities; and individuals from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

Mentors participating in the BRAiN program:

UCD-Downtown

Gita ALAGHABAND, Computer Science and Engineering. Dr. Alaghband has a broad research interest in all aspects of parallel and distributed systems. With the new multi-core architectures, parallel processing research is at the heart of developing new software, systems and algorithms in order to be able to take advantage of the underlying parallelism. A thorough understanding of all aspects of parallel architectures, systems, software and algorithms is necessary to be able to achieve the performance of the new parallel computers and supercomputers.

David ALBECK, Psychology. Dr. Albeck's current research focuses on the aging human brain. He studies the effects of senescence on hormonal, circadian and electrophysiological (EEG) measures in the elderly human.

Richard ALLEN, Psychology. Dr. Allen studies drug reward using self-administration and conditioned place preference in rats. His interests include glutamatergic mechanisms of escalation of cocaine seeking; the roles of drug efficacy and receptor selectivity in the motivational effects of mixed action opioid analgesics, and the neurobiological and behavioral effects of cocaine in rats characterized as low- or high-cocaine responders.

Sondra BLAND, Psychology. Dr. Bland's research interests include the neurobiology of stress and addiction as well as animal models of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Her current studies focus on investigations of gender differences and the effects of social cues and social history on the rewarding and neurochemical effects of drugs of abuse. Techniques include conditioned place preference, in vivo microdialysis with HPLC, and immunohistochemistry.

Mary COUSSONS-READ, Psychology. Dr. Coussons-Read's current research addresses the role of stress and sociocultural factors in contributing to poor pregnancy outcome via alterations in inflammatory markers and immune system activity. Studies focus on how changes in biomarkers of stress and inflammation, including cortisol, catecholamines, and cytokines are predictive of poor outcome in pregnancy.

Amanda CHARLESWORTH, Integrative Biology. The focus of Dr. Charlesworth's research is developmental molecular biology. Studies include the regulation of gene expression by RNA translational control and cell cycle progression during oocyte maturation, maternal to embryo transition and early development.

Michael GREENE, Integrative Biology. In my research I take an integrative, multidisciplinary approach towards understanding chemical communication in ants. The goals of my research are three-fold: 1) to understand the mechanisms by which semiochemicals, natural products that act as signals or cues, mediate animal physiology and behavior, 2) to characterize and identify the chemical structures of these semiochemicals along with factors regulating their production, and 3) to characterize the ecological, behavioral and social contexts under which they operate.

Jim GRIGSBY, Psychology. Dr Grigsby's research interests include cognitive neuroscience, executive cognitive functioning, effects of chemotherapy on cognition among breast cancer patients, brain states associated with executive functioning and meditation, and telemedicine/telehealth.

Ilkyeun RA, Computer Science and Engineering. Dr. Ra's research interests within the areas of high-performance distributed computing and communication include computer networks, developing adaptive distributed system software and high-speed communication system software to support high-performance distributed computing (HPDC) applications. HPDC (e.g., grid computing, cluster computing and cloud computing) effectively utilizes the advances in high-speed networks, software technology and parallel processing to deliver cost-effective high-performance computing.

Jefferson KNIGHT, Chemistry. Dr. Knight's current research interests include molecular mechanisms of protein-membrane interactions, focusing on membrane-targeting PH and C2 domains that are involved in insulin secretion. Biochemical and biophysical approaches are employed, such as fluorescence spectroscopy and single-molecule microscopy.

Alan VAJDA, Ph.D., Integrative Biology. Dr. Vajda's research interests include environmental signaling and endocrine disruption. His lab's focus is on the emerging health issue of endocrine-active chemicals in wastewater-dominated streams and the assessment of these chemicals and their effects in fish. Studies include neural mechanisms underlying reproductive disruption by estrogenic mixtures and behavioral effects of embryonic exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of common antidepressants.

NMSU

Jennifer Curtiss. Cell and Developmental Biology. Website.

CHUN, Heejung. Counseling Educational Psychology. Our projects address cultural discontinuities experienced among minorities students. Particularly, we investigate cultural factors affecting students� academic performance. Website.

Timothy Ketelaar. Psychology. I'm a social-cognitive scientist who adopts an interdisciplinary perspective that combines evolutionary psychology, experimental economics, and game theory to explore the role of emotion in judgment and decision-making. Website.

LOPEZ- MARTINEZ, Giancarlo Biology. We study the effects that environmental stress can have on animals, specifically how free radicals and oxidative damage affect behavior, performance, lifespan, and healthspan. We use insects because of their importance as pests and disease vectors, and they make great models for aging research. Website.

LYONS, Barbara A., Chemistry & Biochemistry. Dr. Lyon's research focuses on an atomic level understanding of the function and regulation of the growth factor receptor bound protein 7 (Grb7). This protein is involved in cytoskeletal restructuring, with specific signaling roles in neurite extension during embryonic development and the maturation of kidney nephrons. Website.

Martha Mitchell Chemical Engineering. Dr. Mitchell�s research focuses on molecular-scale modeling and simulation to eludidate phenomena occurring in industrially-relevant processes. Website.

Enrico Pontelli. Computer Science. Website.

SCHWARTZ, Jonathan. The majority of my research is focused on investigating gender roles, particularly intrapersonal and interpersonal outcomes of rigid and restrictive male gender roles. My research has focused on the prevention of violence in the forms of dating and domestic violence and bullying. Also the prevention and treatment of combat veterans with post traumatic stress disorder and focusing on issues of reintingration into community, work, and family. I am also interested and investigating aspects of behavioral health focused on substance abuse and co-occuring health problems. Website.

SCOTT, Mary Alice Anthropology. We use mixed-methods (qualitative/quantitative) studies to examine how family practice residents learn about "culture" and how that learning influences interactions with patients. Website.

SERRANO, Elba, Biology. The Serrano lab studies the development of the nervous system with an emphasis on the sensory organ systems responsible for hearing and balance and on the process of mechanotransduction. We are especially interested in using informatics to identify molecular targets for neurotoxic and neuroprotective drugs. In a second line of investigation we are assessing heterostructured nanocrystal quantum dots (NQDs) for biocompatibility with the ultimate goal of using NQDs as probes to query molecular processes in neurons and neuroglia. Our laboratory is part of the MIT-Harvard Cell Decision Processes Center (CDP) and we collaborate with scientists and engineers at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT). Website.

SEVOSTIANOV, Igor Mechanical and aerospace engineering. We invsetigate mechanical, conductive, piezoelectric etc. properties of hard-tissue (trabecular and cortical bone, tendon) to their microstructure. The work includes microscopy, mechanical and electrical testing of the specimens. Website.

Mingzhou Song Computer Science. His research areas include statistical computing, quantitative biology, and computer vision. His research has been supported by NSF, NIH, USDA, and Los Alamos National Lab. His current research projects in systems biology involve computational modeling of large dynamic biological networks at the molecular level. He has collaborated with life scientists on campus and around the nation to solve computational modeling problems involved in biofuels, cancer, neuroscience, and microbial communities. Website.

WOOD, Robert Human Performance, Dance & Recreation.. Dr. Wood�s research interests relate primarily to aging, physical function, and disability. In addition, he has a particular interest in the aging of the autonomic nervous system and its relationship to functional decline in late life. Website.

WRIGHT, Timothy F. Biology. Dr. Wright and his students study behavior and evolution in parrots. Parrots are noted for their diverse vocal repertoires, complex social lives, extensive learning abilities, large brains, and long lifespans. Our goal is to understand the proximate mechanisms underlying these traits and the evolutionary associations among them. To do this we employ a variety of approaches including field observations, sound analysis, playback experiments, telemetry, captive studies, and molecular systematics. Website.

UNGUEZ, Graciela, Biology. Dr. Unguez's research interests focus on the formation, maintenance, and plasticity of neuromuscular circuits. Her lab combines a range of molecular, anatomical, microscopy, and in vitro techniques to elucidate the mechanisms responsible for the cellular transformation of skeletal muscle into the non-contractile electrogenic cells of the electric organ of electric fish, and the role that neural input plays in this extreme plasticity of the myogenic program. Website.

UCD-AMC

Bruce Appel, PhD. Cell and Developmental Biology. Nervous System develoment. We investigate how the vertebrate nervous system develops. In particular, we study mechanisms that regulate glial cell formation from neural stem cell populations and subsequently guide glial cell migration and differentiation. We use zebrafish as a model system, which permits us to watch glial cell behaviors directly using in vivo time-lapse imaging and to identify genes essential for nervous system development using various genetic approaches. Website.

Kristin Artinger, PhD. Cell and Developmental Biology. Embryogenesis. My research is focused on the development of the nervous system, specifically in the molecular and developmental mechanisms involved in neural crest cell specification and differentiation. Neural crest cells have the extraordinary ability to retain stem cell-like characteristics during development and give rise to multiple derivatives, including peripheral neurons, pigment cells and craniofacial cartilage, which makes up most of the vertebrate face. We focus on transcriptional regulation of neural crest specification, differentiation into craniofacial structures, and formation of sensory cells in the central and peripheral nervous system. Website.

Linda Barlow, PhD. Cell and Developmental Biology. Taste Development. The sense of taste has been linked to human health, in that dietary choices mediated by the taste system are increasingly linked to the obesity epidemic and its impact on human health, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In our lab, we investigate how the taste system forms during embryogenesis, and how this system is continually renewed in adults. Molecular-, cellular-, and tissue-level mechanisms that generate and pattern the taste system during embryogenesis. Website.

Emily Bates, PhD. Pediatrics. Molecular mechanisms of pediatric disorders. The Bates lab uses genetics to determine the molecular mechanisms of pediatric disorders. Specifically, her research has focused on identifying genetic mutations that underlie migraine headaches and has identified a likely target for alcohol that causes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The Bates lab also tests potential therapies using mice as a model. Some of this work was highlighted in a news story on NPR. For more information on Dr. Bates work, please click here: Bates Website.

Kimberly Bjugstad, PhD. Pediatrics. Neural Stem Cells. My research merging biomaterials research with the neural stem cell field to develop novel ways of treating neurodegenerative disorders and injury. Biomaterials have been used for decades in the body and in peripheral nerve repair. Neural stem cells are the current favorites for "curing" many of the disorders of the brain. It is our hope to combine the best of both technologies by developing biomaterials that can augment neural stem cell survival and function in models of neurodegeneration and injury. Website.

Amy Brooks-Kayal, MD. Pediatrics. Brain Injury Models. My research focuses on understanding how brain injuries such as prolonged seizures (status epilepticus) and traumatic brain injury impact neurotransmitter systems, particularly GABA(A) receptors, the cellular and molecular mechanisms that mediate these changes and how they contribute to later development of epilepsy (a process called epileptogenesis). A second area of research focus is the identification of novel therapeutic approaches to the prevention and treatment of epilepsy, and we have several preclinical studies on-going looking at effects of potential disease modifying agents. Studies in my laboratory use a combination of pharmacological, molecular, immunohistological and long-term video-EEG techniques in rodent models of brain injury and epilepsy. Website.

Joseph A. Brzezinski. IV, Ph.D. Ophthalmology Retinal Development Our lab is interested in identifying the molecular mechanisms that control mammalian retinal development. We use genetic, molecular, and developmental techniques in mice to investigate how rod and cone photoreceptors are formed from multipotent retinal stem cells. Our long-term goal is to apply our developmental findings to the design of novel cell-based therapies that can reverse blinding disease. Website.

Mair Churchill, Ph.D. Pharmacology. Gene regulatory processes. My research focuses on understanding the molecular basis of essential processes that regulate gene expression. Our insights into these fundamental mechanisms will contribute to a better understanding and ability to regulate gene expression processes involved in human diseases from cancer and heart disease to bacterial infections and will assist in drug development efforts. Recently, we have identified small molecule compounds that interfere with the function of histone chaperones, and we are initiating an investigation of the activity of these compounds in cancers of the nervous system. Website.

Gidon Felsen, PhD. Physiology. Sensory and Motor Biology. My lab is interested in the neural circuits underlying decision making and goal-directed behavior. We use electrophysiological, behavioral, molecular, and computational methods to study how rodents transform sensory � primarily olfactory � input into motor output. We aim to understand how sensory stimuli are used to select and initiate motor actions in the normal and disease states. Website.

Tom Finger, PhD. Cell and Developmental Biology. Chemical Senses. The general area of my research focuses on how organisms (including fish, mice and people) detect chemicals in the environment and generate appropriate behavioral responses. Like other vertebrates, we have three distinct chemosensory modalities: taste, smell and the common chemical sense (chemisthesis) by which we detect irritants, e.g. pepper, ammonia and noxious gases. My lab studies the three different types of receptor cells used in these different modalities: taste buds, olfactory receptor cells and solitary chemosensory cells (Finger et al., 2003 Proc. National Acad Sci v100). We further consider how the 3 different systems are connected to and are represented in the brain. Website.

Guido Frank, MD. Psychiatry. Neurobiology of eating and related disorders. We use human brain imaging in order to elucidate the brain pathophysiology that may contribute to altered feeding states in anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Currently our primary focus is on brain reward pathway function, but we also study behaviors such as anxiety that could drive unhealthy eating. During brain scanning, we use tasks based on neuronal models to activate brain circuits that may be associated with particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain and that could be manipulated behaviorally or psychopharmacologically. In addition to the functional brain response, we gather data on brain structure and genotype of relevant neurotransmitter systems and test whether they predict brain activation. Website.

Curt Freed, MD. Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology. Neurodegenerative diseases. We have two strategic themes in my lab. The first strategy is repairing the brain with dopamine neurons derived from human embryonic stem cells and from iPS cells. The second strategy is to stop the progression of Parkinson's disease by turning on a protective gene in the brain called DJ-1. We've found several drugs that can turn on that gene and keep Parkinson's from progressing in transgenic mice programmed to get the disease. Website.

Emily Gibson, PhD. Bioengineering. Advanced Neuroimaging. My research interests are in applications of advanced optical microscopy and optical spectroscopy techniques to the development of new biomedical devices and to further fundamental biological research. In collaboration with Dr. Diego Restrepo, I am working on developing new methods for high spatial and temporal resolution fluorescence imaging of calcium dynamics in olfactory sensory neurons. With funding from an NIH Shared Instrument Grant, we are constructing a super-resolution STimulated Emission Depletion (STED) microscope that will be able to take fluorescence images in live cells down to resolutions of 25-30 nm (10-9 meters). With this new microscope, we will be able to image calcium nano-domains to unprecedented resolution allowing understanding of how localization of calcium regulates signal transduction in the olfactory system. Email.

Kim Heidenreich, PhD. Pharmacology. Cell Death and Repair. My research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of neuronal cell death in neurodegenerative diseases and acute brain injury. Another line of investigation involves a translational project examining the role of leukotrienes in traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the potential use of leukotriene inhibitors in the prevention or attenuation of secondary brain injury following a TBI. Website.

Achim Klug, PhD. Physiology. Auditory system. Our lab is interested in the question of how sound is processed by the auditory system and how biologically relevant information is extracted by the brain from the incoming sound waves. We use a variety of methods, including brain slice and patch clamp recordings to investigate ion channels and synapses, immunohistochemistry to study the anatomical connection between brain nuclei, in vivo recordings to investigate how sound is processed by auditory neurons, and optogenetic methods to manipulate neural circuits involved in sound localization. Website.

Amanda J. Law, MSc. PhD. Psychiatry Psychiatric, Neurodevelopmental, and Behavioral Disorders. My research focuses on understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms of genetic susceptibility to severe psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, translating this at the level of brain development and behavior. Using a multidisciplinary basic neuroscience approach my research incorporates: human postmortem studies of the adult and fetal brain, primary human cell models, rodent primary neuronal culture, transgenic animal models, clinical genetics and pharmacological studies. Our work is highly translational and employs state-of-the-art molecular and cell biology techniques (e.g. quantitative real-time PCR, in-situ hybridization, recombinant DNA technology, lentiviral technology, primary hippocampal, striatal and cortical culture and proteomic studies) combined with comprehensive behavioral, anatomical and neurophysiological studies in transgenic rodents to determine the role of susceptibility genes in early brain development and adult brain function. In the past years, my research has focused on a key neurodevelopmental pathway; the neuregulin (NRG1/NRG3)-ErbB4-phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)-AKT gene network, as it relates to genetic risk for schizophrenia and related disorders. This work has recently expanded to include examination of a number of closely interacting genes and pathways, including Neurexin 1 (NRXN1), AKT2, AKT3 and mTOR, all of which have been strongly implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders including autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Email.

Wendy Macklin, PhD. Cell and Developmental Biology. Oligodendrocyte Differentiation and Myelination in the Central Nervous System. Website.

Katie Rennie, PhD. Otolaryngology. Vestibular System. Research in my laboratory is focused on hair cells of the vestibular system. The vestibular system of the inner ear senses accelerations of the head and interacts with other systems to produce the sensation of balance. It is estimated that more than one third of adults in the US experience vestibular dysfunction at some time in their life. However the mechanisms underlying normal and abnormal processing of vestibular sensory signals are not well understood. Our research aims to elucidate how signals are processed in the peripheral vestibular system using rodent models. In such models the vestibular system is immature at birth and the membrane properties of semicircular canal type I hair cells change dramatically during the first few postnatal weeks. We are investigating concurrent changes in synaptic transmission between hair cells and their afferent and efferent neurons during development. Website.

Diego Restrepo, PhD. Cell and Developmental Biology. Olfactory encoding and signaling. We study molecular and systems neuroscience aspects of the olfactory system. The olfactory system performs the complex task of detecting and quantifying the concentration of volatile molecules present in the air we breathe. Olfactory receptor neurons are sophisticated detectors whose sensitivity, even in the presence of complex mixtures of volatile molecules, rivals that of modern analytical equipment. We use this fascinating model system to study basic questions of sensory signal processing and decision-maiking. Our approach is multidisciplinary, involving mouse genetic, behavioral, molecular biological, biophysical, awake behaving recording, optogenetics and electrophysiological techniques. Website.

Angeles Ribera, PhD. Physiology. Nervous system development. We study how neurons differentiate into electrically excitable cells and then use excitability to guide their own development. We study developmental events that beginduring the first trimester of human embryonic development and use the zebrafish and Xenopus laevis embryos as model systems. We approach our experimental questions using the genetic, molecular biological, confocal imaging and electrophysiological methods. Website.

Ernesto Salcedo, PhD. Cell and Developmental Biology. Neuroanatomy and functional organization. Our research focuses on understanding how the organization of the brain helps its function. Specifically, we focus on the main olfactory bulb of mice, a highly organized structure which processes the olfactory information sent directly from the olfactory epithelium in the nose. To understand how this neural organization helps encode olfactory information, we have generated a three-dimensional reconstruction of the main olfactory bulb. We are currently working to deconstruct the activity seen in different parts of the bulb in response to different smells. With this information, we ultimately hope to link activity in the bulb to olfactory-driven behavior, such as predator detection or mate selection. Our methodology includes brain dissection, immunohistochemical (antibodies) labeling techniques, microscopy and digital imaging, and computer programming. Website.

Kalynn M. Schulz Ph.D.Developmental Behavioral Neuroscience. Our laboratory studies the neural mechanisms by which developmental stress exposure causes adult behavioral dysfunction. Several neuropsychiatric illnesses (e.g. schizophrenia and depression) are associated with stress exposure during development. Using rodent models, we are investigating the impact of stress hormones (e.g. corticosterone) during different developmental stages on hippocampal development, and in particular, the development of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the hippocampus. As such, we are currently testing the hypothesis that stress-induced changes in hippocampal nicotinic receptor function underlies the deleterious behavioral consequences of developmental stress exposure. email.

John Thompson, PhD. Neurosurgery. Human Pathophysiology. In patients with movement disorders (e.g. Parkinson's disease, Essential Tremor and Dystonia), undergoing deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery, we use electrophysiological (both single unit and local field potential), anatomical, behavioral and computational methods to gain a better understanding of basal ganglia function and dysfunction. In addition to pursuing basic research questions, we also conduct clinically relevant studies, such as how analysis of local field potentials (i.e., recording from a population of neurons) at different locations in the brain could improve targeting of the DBS electrode. email.

Xiaoli Yu, PhD. Neurology. Neuroimmunology. My research investigates the specificity of IgG in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) using phage-displayed peptide libraries approach. A hallmark of MS is the persistence of oligoclonal IgG and elevated numbers of B cells in the CNS. Our published studies have demonstrated the antigen-driven response of clonally expanded B cells in MS. We are using recombinant antibodies generated from these B cells to identify peptide epitopes/mimotopes by panning phage-displayed random peptide libraries. The specificity of the peptides is confirmed by ELISA, immunoblot and competitive inhibition assays. By applying a highly sensitive phage mediated immuno-PCR technique, these peptides are screened for bindings to IgG in multiple MS patients. MS peptides can then be used to determine the corresponding protein antigens using bioinformatics approach. Identification of MS antigens has the potential to determine the cause of disease, and to develop strategies for diagnostic and therapeutic intervention. Website.

Check out our blog: BRAiN scholars blogspot.

Summer

BRAiN Slam!

This course will cover the following topics:

- An introduction to Neuroscience.

- Scientific communication including making a scientific poster and giving a 5-minute talk

- Ethics in Research

University of Colorado Denver

UCD students, please apply here: UCD BRAiN application.

New Mexico State University

NMSU students, please click here for more information: NMSU BRAiN

Contact us!

Univeristy of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus

Ernesto Salcedo, Ph.D. Phone: 303.724.3430. Email: ernesto.salcedo@ucdenver.edu

University of Colorado Denver Downtown Campus

Sondra Bland, Ph.D. Email: sondra.bland@ucdenver.edu

New Mexico State University

Elba Serrano, Ph.D. Email: serrano@nmsu.edu

 

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