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2013-2014 Research Fellows

UHL Student Research Fellows Program


 Research Fellows


 Riannon Atwater

As a continuation of my research last year, I spent the year working with Dr. Jennifer Hellier, the lead editor for a neuroscience encyclopedia titled, The Brain, Nervous System, and Their Diseases.The encyclopedia will be published in December 2014. I worked to help Dr. Hellier to organize, coordinate, and edit entries written by other contributors. I also wrote numerous entries which will be included in the final publication. Halfway through the year, the encyclopedia moved into production. For this, I helped compile a list of entries needing a figure and organized the entries based on broad topics. Later this year I will be helping to review the figures chosen for the encyclopedia and edit the final proofs. This has been an amazing experience as it has given me an enormous opportunity to learn about neuroscience and to explore the publication process.

- Riannon Atwater, Biology - Class o​f 2015​​


 Kyle Callahan

​Class of 20144

 Peter Costea

​Class of 20145

 Dana Dinges

As a research assistant in the Intensive Psychiatric Unit, I was asked to help gather data on how patients felt about the medical services that were being offered on this unit. I was also asked to help obtain consent from the patients and the parents that were being asked to partake in this study. Anyone who was admitted to the sixth floor was asked to be part of this study, but if they declined, they were not included. I would obtain the consent and then assign study numbers to the patients that agreed to participate in the study so that no one would be able to identify who they were. I would also log information into the website where the information was being inputted and take out all personal information, this was also done so no one would be able to identify them.

This experience was really influential in how I have changed the path in which I want to work. Even though I loved the experience there, this experience made me realize that I did not like the idea of working in a hospital. It has also opened my eyes to what research in a hospital would look like and how hard it is to obtain consent from families who are already struggling with these problems. It was my first time working in research, and that also made me realize that I really like research, but do not believe that is my calling in life. I would like to interact with these people every day in a way to help them rather than gathering data. I am very grateful that I was able to participate in this experience and I will never forget it.

- Dana Dinges, Class of 2015 ​


 Greg Fliney

Greg is continuing his research from last year. Click here to read more about his project. 7

 Jacob Harrison

Research Fellows JacobHarr.jpgThe internship I participated in this summer semester was at Sounds True Recording, a company that records, edits, produces, markets, copyrights and distributes audio books and music that focus primarily on spirituality, meditation and general wellness. As a learning experience, the internship was slightly below a class in building knowledge but trumped by far any class in converting that knowledge into practical skills.  Knowledge I gained was mostly specific to how programs like GraceNote, DB poweramp, Chapter and Verse, and most importantly Pyramix worked and what they did.

The most interesting tasks I got to participate in were editing podcasts myself, normalizing tracks if they came out too quietly from engineers, setting up the studio for a session that was going to run later in the day and compiling music tracks from various CDs from the same artist and buidling a "best of CD" from the artist. Overall, the internship far exceeded my expectations. 

- Jacob Harrison, Class of 2015


 Madelyn Hunsley

I work with Dr. Scott Reed in the CU Denver Chemistry Department. Currently, I am working on synthesizing an organic, photochemically active molecure that can potentially be used as a cancer therapeutic. Since UV light, which is currently used in many phototherapies, damages healthy cells and causes tissue necrosis, we want to synthesize a molecule that is activated by near infrared (NIR) light and will ultimately take advantage of the body's cell removal process to remove cancer cells without damaging healthy cells.

- Madelyn Hunsley, Class of 2015


 Tamara Lhungay

The Right to Learn (RTL) project works to inform legislative and judicial environment about education and learning using interdisciplinary research methods. The RTL team is currently drafting an article for submission to a law review.  The long-term objective is to influence how policymakers and civil rights workers (i.e., activists, lawyers, scholars) perceive the relation among learning, state action, and personhood. It is important to note that the Supreme Court does not currently acknowledge education as a fundamental constitutional right.  However, in certain states, such as Kentucky and Massachusetts, education is a legally protected right.  In studying landmark cases such as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), Mclaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents (1950), and Plyler v. Doe (1982), we have gained insight into the Supreme Court's multifacted view of education in a democratic society.

We argue that participation in the educative process in public school settings is a "dignity-conferring" and, thus, "rights-generative" process.  The legal opinions we study, whether federal or state level, suggest that education has tangible, if difficult to perceive, effects on personhood. Further, as the matter pertains to undocumented students, we argue that equal and meaningful participation in education can potentially create quasi-citizens.  Through close study of judicial texts and the relationships among those cases, we have learned how judicial thought works to sway and influence the perceptions of everyday people.

Dr. Manuel Espinoza leads the project with the support of Tania Valenzuela (B.A., Regis University, Tamara Lhungay (B.S., University of Colorado at Denver), Mandy Wong (B.A., University of Colorado at Denver), and Maria Velasco (undergraduate at University of Colorado at Denver). The research approach is collaborative and unique. Prior to meeting we do research and readings from various intellectuals, court cases, and other background information. The best part about our team is how we each bring a different skill to the table. None of us stay strictly to these roles though, and we can shift if the situation calls for it.

The amazing dynamics we have allo
the team to work really well together, pushing us to do more and be more. The Right to Learn Project has really pushed me to grow as an intellectual, and research through UNHL was one of the best decisions I made in my undergraduate education. I am looking forward to where this project takes us and the changes we can accomplish.

- Tamara Lhungay, Class of 2014​​


 Miriam Sarwana

At the Eating Disorder Unit, we are working to attempt to make a "profile" for what it means to be a successful family of an eating disorder patient. This past semester, we collected baseline assessments for every family and patient that was admitted into the Eating Disorder Unit. These assessments include measures that evaluate eating disorder symptoms, anxiety, depression, personality characteristics, expressed emotions, family communication, and perceived criticism. We scored these assessments by hand, and set up data profiles for patients for future evaluation. We have also set up RedCap which is a system that we use to gather, organize, and manage the data from the assessments. This will make it easier for us to collect the outcome data in the following semester, and be able to then evaluate the success of the treatment program and inform future treatments.​

- Miriam Sarwana, Psychology, Class of 2014

 Jonah Shuman

For the past two years, I have been working in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Children’s Hospital Colorado. My work dealt primarily with the Ponzio Creative Arts Therapy (PCAT) program, a grant funded portion of mental health care through which patients have access to creative arts therapy. During the first year, I spent most of my time working with other student research assistants on a large scale study to validate a newly developed mood measure. This measure, called the Fast Assessment of Children’s Emotions (FACE), is a six section mood scale made age appropriate for young people. While working on this study, I learned valuable skills about data entry, survey composition, study recruitment, consenting families, and administering tests.

When this study and my first year came to a close, my mentor asked me to synthesize my own research project and apply for UCD’s UROP grant. This taught me how to research within psychology and write my own grant. After receiving the grant, I spent time building a team to work with me, which included several therapists, researchers, and a biostatistician. My project assessed the effectiveness of music therapy for adolescent populations in a psychiatric hospital setting. For this, we used FACE data I had already collected and entered, tied that with patient demographics, and sent it to our statistician. We used change in mood as our proxy for effectiveness, and found that music therapy is very likely to change a child’s mood from pre-session to post. My mentor and I wrote up a poster and I have presented at multiple research events; we hope to take this poster to a national conference in November. Until then, I am revising my article for this study and hope to be published by the end of this school year. 

- Jonah Shuman​


 Anushka Tandon

When people imagine scientific research, their minds almost often jump to lab work, which accounts for a large part of scientific investigations. My work at Anschutz, however, primarily involves the lesser-known area of clinical research. The clinical office of the UCH Department of Neurology is incredibly busy all of the time. Here, we work on research projects and proposals associated with drug companies, national health organizations, and independent researchers (often doctors and faculty). The Neurology department’s projects largely overlap with those of the RMMSC (Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center), which is a regional hotspot for experimental treatments and MS research (run by some of our most prominent doctors). I therefore have a diverse range of exposure within the realm of clinical studies.

Most of my work involves data compilation for various purposes, such as presentation tools and study inputs. I extract classified patient information from clinical databases like EPIC and RedCap according to the scope of the project at hand and ensure that it is all verified and correct, because raw data is the basic foundation of all ventures. I also often put together literature reviews that draw from published research all over the world. I have predominantly been investigating all findings regarding Rasmussen’s Encephalitis (RE), so as to help our doctors tailor proposals for an RE biorepository and experimental treatment study. 

RE is a very rare autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the neural tissue, partial epilepsy (localized seizures), localized body weakness or paralysis, and other progressive motor and neurological deficits. The condition is predominant among children under 10 years of age, and the most effective method of halting disease progression today is with a surgical procedure called a hemispherectomy (which resects the cortical portion of a brain hemisphere, and sometimes more tissue than that). Little is understood about the progression of the disease, the causative factors, and other pathophysiological details – a biorepository of human tissue, therefore, would be enormously beneficial for research purposes. There are also efforts to experimentally treat RE with natalizumab, a drug approved for MS therapy, based on the idea that if natalizumab can help prevent autoimmune damage to neural tissue in MS, it might work similarly in RE. This has never been attempted in a study, and so requires much documentation of natalizumab safety in pediatric use, and of the similar pathology of MS and RE. In researching published literature to help design protocols for research projects, I hope to help further medical progress so young patients may benefit from it. 

- Anushka Tandon, Class of 2015


 Leo Zukin

​Class of 2014​12

University Honors and Leadership Program

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