Students sweep prizes at prestigious conference

Eleven Lake Forest College science majors attended the 23nd annual meeting of the Great Lakes Chapter of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (GLC-ASPET), held Friday, June 18, at the University of Chicago Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago.

Lake Forest, Ill. ” Eleven Lake Forest College science majors attended the 23nd annual meeting of the Great Lakes Chapter of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (GLC-ASPET), held Friday, June 18, at the University of Chicago Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago.  They were Daryn Cass ‘10, Michael Fiske ‘10, Jaime Perez ‘10, Ashleigh Porter ‘11, Alina Konnikova ‘11, Natalie Simak ‘11, Keith Solvang ‘11, Madhavi Senagolage ‘12, Pascal Accoh ‘12, Sylwia Dakowicz ‘13, and Natalie Kukulka ‘13.

Alina Konnikova’11, Ashleigh Porter’11 and Natalie Simak’11 made a clean sweep of the First, Second, and Third Prize honors in the undergraduate poster competition part of this conference. These three biology majors are planning for medical school after graduation.

This is only the third year of the undergraduate competition at the GLC-ASPET conference and each year Lake Forest science majors have won prizes competing alongside undergraduates from Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, and Illinois.

Alina presented Parkinson’s disease research that she first began as a Richter Scholar and is now continuing for her senior thesis in the molecular neuroscience laboratory of Associate Professor of Biology Shubhik DebBurman at the College. The American Parkinson Disease Association and the NIH fund this research.

Porter and Simak presented undergraduate research in cancer biology and addiction research, respectively, that they first began as sophomores via the Lake Forest College-Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (LFC-RFUMS) Summer Research Fellows Program, followed by academic-year internships at RFUMS, and now a second summer or research at RFUMS. This is the second year of this unusual research program, and Porter and Simak are among twelve science majors conducting research for ten or more weeks mentored by medical school faculty in areas of pharmacology, cell biology, molecular biology/biochemistry, and neuroscience. Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Carl Correll mentored Porter. Professor of Cell & Molecular Pharmacology Kuei-Yuan Tseng mentored Simak.

Madhavi Senagolage’12 and Pascal Accoh’12 also presented posters of research they conducted with Professors DebBurman and Kuei-Yuan Tseng, respectively.

After her first conference experience as a presenter and award winner, Porter emphasizes: “As an aspiring physician, having the opportunity to see the many different ways drugs are targeted, discovered, and developed is invaluable. Being recognized as a contributor to that field is even more extraordinary, and I would definitely pursue opportunities similar to this in the future”.

Simak, whose work is currently submitted to a major neuroscience journal for publication consideration, says this: “The opportunity to present my research at the GLC-ASPET conference has allowed me to practice communicating clearly and confidently about my research. As a biology student and a future physician, these skills are invaluable”.

First-year Richter scholar Dakowicz adds: “Opportunities such as the GLC-ASPET should be offered to first year undergraduates because we are deciding our future at this point.  It allowed me to see numerous presentations demonstrating various research methods, and as a science Richter Scholar conducting research for the first time, this was an important experience which showed me how dedicated you have to be to a science profession but how rewarding it may be”.

ASPET is the premier scientific society for scientists who conduct basic and clinical pharmacological research in academia, industry and the government. The Great Lakes Chapter was founded in 1987 and its annual meeting is held each spring to promote scientific communication among research workers interested in pharmacology in the Midwest. Its members research efforts help develop new medicines and therapeutic agents to fight existing and emerging diseases. Annual meetings are held each spring to foster the goals of ASPET to promote scientific communication among research workers interested in pharmacology and have consistently drawn a wide representation of the Midwestern pharmacology community. To learn more about the GLC-ASPET conference, click here: http://www.aspet.org/GLC/

The Lake Forest College presentations at meeting were:

Pascal Accoh’12, “Periadolescent facilitation of NMDA-dependent synaptic function in the prefrontal cortex: role of NR2B-containing receptors”, with work from Natalie Simak’11 (Professor Kuei-Yuan Tseng, RFUMS)

Alina Konnikova’11, “Autophagic Regulation of Alpha-Synuclein Pathotoxicity Properties in Budding Yeast Reveals Unexpected Complexities”, with work from Ray Choi’09, Daniel Sanchez’11, Kayla Ahlstrand’12, and Peter Sullivan’12 (Professor Shubhik DebBurman, Biology)

Ashleigh Porter’11, “Possible New Cancer Treatments: Ribosome Biogenesis as an Unexplored Target”, (Professor Carl Correll, RFUMS)

Madhavi Senagolage’12, “Insight Into Parkinson’s Disease: Is Alpha-Synuclein Degradated By Endocytosis?” With work from Jaime Perez’10, Michael Fiske’10 and Alexandra Ayala’09 (Professor Shubhik DebBurman, Biology)

Natalie Simak’11, “Cocaine experience during adolescence selectively arrests the maturation of parvalbumin positive/GABAergic fast-spiking interneurons in the prefrontal cortex”, with work from Daryn Cass’10 (Professor Kuei-Yuan Tseng, RFUMS)

Lake Forest College is a national liberal arts institution located 30 miles north of downtown Chicago. The College has 1,400 students representing 45 states and 69 countries.