The D-Lab studies the molecular basis of Parkinson’s Disease. Using yeasts as model organisms, we seek to gain insight into how the misfolding of the Parkinson’s protein alpha-synuclein regulates the disease pathology. NIH and NSF grants have funded the training of fifty-five undergraduates who contributed to original research advances since 1999, through summer research, the Richter Program, senior theses, independent studies, and research-rich courses.
We seek and attract a diverse group of highly motivated and hardworking undergraduates who collaboratively work on a variety of related projects. Students choose from several ongoing hypothesis-driven projects, and often initiate new questions that lead our lab in new research directions. Students enjoy significant control over experimental aims and design. To test chosen hypotheses, students have developed two types of yeast model systems and utilize contemporary techniques in molecular genetics, cell biology, and biochemistry.
The vast majority of trainees have gone on to pursue PhD, MD, or master degrees in diverse types of health professions. Students routinely present their work at regional and national scientific conferences. Many work multiple years on their projects and cap it with a senior thesis. Most become published co-authors in research articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Several publish their work in national undergraduate journals and in Eukaryon. Several apply for and receive national grants for undergraduate research, conference participation, and graduate school. Many have regularly won poster prizes for their research, at the local and national level.
Students interested in working in the lab are encouraged to contact Dr. DebBurman.
The D-lab was proud to host four Richter Scholars (first-year students) during summer 2014. All four students are planning neuroscience and/or biology majors.
Charles Alvarado ’16, a neuroscience major with an educational studies minor, won the First Prize in the undergraduate research competition for presenting his research on the effects of c-terminal truncations of alpha-synuclein at the 2014 Great Lakes Chapter American Society of Pharmaceutical and Experimental Therapeutics meeting on June 13. Charles is planning for a future career as a high science teacher.
Maiwase Tembo ’15, a biology major and neuroscience major, won the First Prize in the undergraduate research competition for presenting her endocytosis regulation of alpha-synuclein at the 2013 Great Lakes Chapter American Society of Pharmaceutical and Experimental Therapeutics meeting (June 14, 2013). More recently, she has also won the Third Prize in the undergraduate research competition at the 2014 Chicago Society for Neuroscience meeting meeting (April 4, 2014). Wase is planning for a future career in biomedical research.
Katrina Campbell ’14, a biology major and neuroscience minor, won the Second Prize in the undergraduate research competition for presenting her Richter fellowship initiated research at the 2012 Great Lakes Chapter American Society of Pharmaceutical and Experimental Therapeutics meeting (June 19, 2012). Katie is planning to apply for a PhD program in biology/neuroscience after graduation.
Natalie Kukulka ’13, a biology and neuroscience graduate, has received a 2013 Parkinson’s Disease Foundation summer grant (one of 15 awards from a national pool of 60+ applications from medical, graduate, and undergraduate students). She also won the Third Prize in the undergraduate research competition for presenting her Richter fellowship initiated research at the 2013 Chicago Society for Neuroscience meeting meeting (March 7, 2013). Natalie is planning to be a physician and is currently working at Northwestern Children’s Memorial Hospital doing biomedical research in urology.
Madhavi Senagolage ’12, a biology senior with minors in neuroscience and chemistry from Colombo Sri Lanka, has received a competitive 2011 FUN (Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience) Undergraduate Travel Award to present her senior thesis research at the annual Society for Neuroscience Meeting to be held in Washington (DC) from November 11-16. At this meeting, she presented a science education poster on Eukaryon as its Publication Board Chair. She also co-presented with Daniella Brutman ’12 another science education poster on the 2010 Brain Awareness Week at Lake Forest College. Previously, she received the 2nd Prize at the 2011 Chicago Society for Neuroscience meeting. She was also awarded a undergraduate research travel award from the American Society of Cell Biology (ASCB) to present her Parkinson’s disease project on endocytosis at the 2010 ASCB meeting in Philadelphia (Dec 11-14). Madhavi is currently pursuing a PhD in biology at Northwestern University.
Keith Solvang ’11, a biology 2011 graduate, won the First Prize in the undergraduate research competition for presenting his Parkinson’s disease research at the 2011 Great Lakes Chapter American Society of Pharmaceutical and Experimental Therapeutics meeting (June 10, 2011). He was supported by an summer fellowship from the 2009-10 NIH American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to conduct his Parkinson’s Disease research project. Keith completed a Masters degree in biomedical sciences at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Sciences and is currently pursuing his MD studies there.
Alina Konnikova ’11, a biology senior from Vernon Hills Illinois, won the First Prize in the undergraduate research competition for presenting her Parkinson’s disease research on autophagy at the 2010 Great Lakes Chapter American Society of Pharmaceutical and Experimental Therapeutics meeting (June 19, 2010). Alina is pursuing her MD studies at the University of Illinois School of Medicine.
Jaime Perez ’10 graduated with a biology and art double major and was the 2009-10 Foster G McGaw Scholar at the college and received the 2009 Lincoln Laureate Award. He received his Masters degree in graduate in Prosthetics and Orthotics at University of Texas-Southwestern Medical Center and completed his residency in orthotic and prosthetics in Boston (MA). He is now working in Chicago, Illinois.
Michael Fiske ’10, a biology 2010 graduate and a Barry Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention, won the First Prize for his Parkinson’s research senior thesis project at the national undergraduate poster competition of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) held in Anaheim California (April 24-28, 2010). He was also a UAN-ASBMB undergraduate travel award recipient from ASBMB. He conducted his senior thesis with a research grant he received from the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Michael was initially pursuing his PhD in biology at the University of Washington, where he was awarded Honorable Mention on his NSF predoctoral grant application in 2011. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Neuroscience at Northwestern University.