Perfect dozen

This is the 12th year in a row that a Lake Forest College student has won a research prize at the Chicago Society for Neuroscience’s Annual Undergraduate Poster Competition.

Maiwase Tembo ’15, a neuroscience and biology double major, won the Third Prize at the 12th annual CSfN meeting, which was held at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on April 4. 

The CSfN hosts the largest Midwest neuroscience meeting every year, and more than 450 scientists and students attended this year. U.S. Senator for Illinois Dick Durbin opened the 2014 conference with a special address on his current legislation in Congress, the American Cures Act.

Tembo conducted her Parkinson’s Disease research in Professor of Biology Shubhik DebBurman’s molecular neuroscience lab. She is currently completing this project toward a manuscript for publication this summer. Tembo is planning for a PhD in neuroscience after graduation.

This work is the final installment of a multi-year collaborative project funded by the National Institute of Health R15 AREA grant to Dr. DebBurman, and includes research completed by Madhavi Senagolage ’12, Jaime Perez ’10, Alexandra Ayala ’09, Mithaq Vahedi ’08, and Jessica Price ’06.

This is the second time Tembo has won a research prize in this past year. Last summer, she received the First Prize among undergraduates at the 2013 Great Lakes Chapter-ASPET meeting (Chicago).

On receiving this latest honor, Tembo said, “Undergrad research has given me the opportunity to learn skills that some people only learn in graduate school. This makes me feel more confident about pursuing a career as a scientist. Before research I did not know how to think like a scientist, but now I can say that I am on the right path. What has helped me every time I present a poster is practice. I practice so that I become comfortable with the material. Once I’m comfortable, I’m able to talk about the poster as though I’m talking to a group of friends who share the same interest as I do. When I’m comfortable, I find that I can make the audience quite comfortable with the material so that they almost forget that it’s science they may not have heard of. ”

Three other Lake Forest College students presented their research as well:

Katrina Campbell 14, biology major and neuroscience minor, presented her senior thesis on Parkinson’s disease that she is conducting in the DebBurman lab.

Anhar Mohamed ’14, neuroscience major, presented her senior thesis that she is conducting in Dr. Janice Urban’s lab at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.

Saul Bello Rojas 16, biology and neuroscience double major, presented a first-year research project on Parkinson’s disease that he conducted in the DebBurman lab.

The organization is composed of academic and industry-based scientists who are interested in the field of neuroscience. More than 50 neuroscience, biology and psychology students from Lake Forest College, including 15 first-year students, attended this meeting. They were accompanied by Professors Shubhik DebBurman, Naomi Wentworth, Jason Pitt, and Javier Sanchez. Not only did students attend several scientific sessions featuring world famous scientists, they also participated in “diversity in careers” lunch discussions, scientific mentoring panels, and brain awareness teaching workshops.

This was first-year neuroscience student Ana McCracken’s first scientific conference.

“A day at CSfN was motivating and inspiring,” McCracken said. “I was thrilled to be exposed to different areas of research in which neuroscience is active; not to mention that I learned different research methods and breath-taking findings that scientists like Stanford University neuroscience professor Dr. Carla Shatz are working on. I was excited to hear Dr. Susan Lindquist from M.I.T. discuss her pioneering molecular biology work with Parkinson’s disease and yeast cells, work that I had studied for a Journal Club project earlier this semester in my first-year biology course. I was grateful that during CSfN, I was able to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to bigger concepts and mechanisms.”

Neuroscience student Kayla Huber ’16 participated in a special brain pedagogy workshop along with Chicago Public School teachers at this conference. On this experience, she said, “Attending the CSfN teacher’s workshop gave me insight into how minor differences between the sexes can be extrapolated into major gaps in academic achievement and interest. It made me realize that in order for our society to move beyond binarism, teachers must actively monitor themselves and promote the growth of students in all areas. In addition, I learned many new ways to bring neuroscience to younger students. The brain may be one of the last frontiers of science and it is crucial that we spark an interest in the next generation of researchers.”

The following Lake Forest College students have won awards at the conference since 2003:


Ashley Reich ’13, 2nd Prize, is planning for graduate school and is currently working in a biotech company.

Natalie Kukulka ’13, 3rd Prize, is planning for medical school and is currently working as research technician at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine.

Sydni Cole ’12
, 1st Prize, is pursuing her MD/PhD at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine.

Madhavi Senagolage 12, 2nd Prize, PhD candidate in biology at Northwestern University.

Derek Atchley ’10
, 3rd Prize, PhD candidate in cognitive and behavioral neuroscience at Wayne State University.

Michael Fiske 10, 1st Prize, PhD student in neuroscience at Northwestern University.

Ray Choi ’09, 3rd Prize, MD candidate at University of Colorado.

Stephanie Valtierra 08, 2nd Prize, PhD candidate in neuroscience at Northwestern University.

Alexandra Ayala 09, Honorable Mention, math and science teacher, Teach for America.

Michael White 07, 2nd Prize, MD 2012 (now pursuing neurology residency at Washington University).

Michael Zorniak 07, 3rd Prize, PhD in neuroscience at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Arun Paul 05, 1st Prize, MD 2012/PhD 2010, RFUMS (oncology residency at Wayne State).

David Mann 05, 3rd Prize, MD Ross University (received 2010); MD Residency, Medical College of Wisconsin.

Isaac Holmes 04, 1st Prize, MD (2009) Rush Medical College; MD Residency in cardiology, Rush Medical College (now Chief Resident).

Jillian Hibler 04, 2nd Prize, DVM 2007, Washington State University.

Nijee Sharma 04, co-3rd prize, MD (2011/PhD 2009) Loyola; MD residency in neurology at University of California Davis.

Brandon Johnson 03, co-3rd prize, PhD (received 2010) and Postdoctoral fellowship, Stanford University.