Derek Atchley ‘10 honored for research at neuroscience conference

Derek Atchley ‘10 received the third prize for his presentation of his senior neuroscience thesis “Effects of Stress on Emotion-related Behavior in Rodents: Implications for Affective Disorders.”

Derek Atchley ‘10 received the third prize at the undergraduate symposium and competition of the annual meeting of the Chicago Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience (CSFN) on March 25 at Depaul University.

Atchley, a psychology major, presented his senior thesis research entitled “Effects of Stress on Emotion-related Behavior in Rodents: Implications for Affective Disorders”, which he is pursuing at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science (RFUMS) in professor of pharmacology Dr. Amiel Rozenkranz’s lab.

“Senior thesis research at RFUMS was an integral part of deciding what I want to do after graduation,” says Atchley. “Because of my experience in Dr. Rosenkranz’s lab, I know that I want to pursue research in this field and eventually get a PhD and continue doing research. Being recognized for my research at this type of conference really boosted my confidence and increased my desire to continue doing this type of work.”

The CSFN is the Chicago affiliate of the National Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience and is the largest annual Midwest neuroscience meeting. It is composed of academic and industry-based scientists who are interested the field of neuroscience. This includes researchers, teachers, students and interested public. Undergraduate scholars of neuroscience from colleges and universities in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin typically present at this prestigious regional conference, alongside about 300 hundred scientists, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students.

Five other Lake Forest College students, all biology majors, also presented posters at the conference:

• Jaime Perez ‘10 – “Insight into Parkinson’s Disease: Is Alpha-Synuclein Degraded by Endocytosis?”, with research from Alexandra Ayala ‘09, and Michael White ‘07
• Rebecca Brezinsky ‘11 & Keith Solvang ‘11 – “Key Amino acids that Contribute to Parkinson’s Disease Protein Alpha-Synuclein’s Pathotoxic Potential”, with research from Michael Fiske ‘10
• Carlos Becerra ‘10 & Will Press ‘11 – “Searching For New Genes That Control The Accumulation And Toxicity Of Parkinson’s Disease Protein Alpha-Synuclein”, with research from Michael Fiske ‘10

All of these student presenters are planning for diverse postgraduate biomedical careers, including neuroscience, biology, human and veterinary medicine, and prosthetics.

Lake Forest sent 25 undergraduates enrolled in several biology, psychology, and neuroscience courses to the conference, and several members of the new neuroscience student organization SYNAPSE attended this conference, which now serves as an annual academic event for the new neuroscience program at the college.

SYNAPSE member Natalie Kukulka ‘13 states: “As a first-year student attending the conference, I really did not know what to expect, and I was slightly afraid that I might not understand a lot of the lectures. However, after the entire day I was so mesmerized by all of the issues that the scientists were dealing with that I developed a new passion for neurology and really see this field as a possible career for my future.”

Lake Forest biology students have won one or more prizes each year for the past eight years of this undergraduate neuroscience research competition in Chicago. The twelve award winners to date have either pursued M.D., D.V.M., Ph.D., or M.D./Ph.D. degrees, or are employed in biomedical research or in K-12 teaching.

“Our science students have built an extraordinary and enviable record of accomplishment over the years at this conference and at others,” says neuroscience program chair Associate Professor of Biology Shubhik DebBurman. “Such sustained success is a strong testimony to the high level of motivation and hard work our students routinely demonstrate towards their scholarship. It also exemplifies our pedagogical approach, which stresses hands-on experiences and articulating communication of it, thereby providing multiple opportunities for students to behave like scientists.”

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 71 countries.