NeuroFrontiers: A brainy confluence of student research, role-playing scientists, and alumni

The logo for the 2018 NeuroFrontiers Workshop was designed by neuroscience and biology senior Rosemary Thomas '18.
April 14, 2018

Noted Chicago area expert on stress and anxiety neuroscientist Dr. Joanna Dabrowska and several Lake Forest College alumni will be the highlight of the 16th NeuroFrontiers Workshop on April 28 at Lake Forest College. This workshop celebrates the capstone research projects of four biology and neuroscience courses and the induction of new members of the college’s chapter of Nu Rho Psi, the national neuroscience honorary.

One faculty member (Lawrence R. Lee Professor of Biology Douglas Light) and eight biology and psychology alumni (Dr. Mithaq Vahedi ’08, M.D., Dr. Brain Kinsman ’09, Ph.D., Dr. Jennillee Wallace ’09, Ph.D., Dr. Joanthan Flaksman ’11, D.M.D., Dr. Alina Konnikova ’11, M.D., Dr. Natalie Simak ’11, M.D., Dr. Pascal Accoh ’11, M.D., and Ms. Jessica Dudley ’14, M.S.N.) will be honored.

What is Nu Rho Psi?

Nu Rho Psi is the National Honor Society in Neuroscience, founded in 2006 by the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience. The Lake Forest College Chapter became the 26th member of this national organization in spring 2012.

Twelve current neuroscience majors, eight biology, neuroscience, psychology alumni, and one faculty member will be inducted as 2018 members of the society at 4:00 PM:

Alexandra Dejneka ’21
Blakeley Drake ’21
Estella Tcaturian ’21
Ariane Balaram ’20
Alexsandra Biel ’20
Lauren Giurini ’20
Emma Kuhr ’20
Ruqia Bibi ’19
Phillip Freund ’19
Nicole Hedger ’19
Trevor Buhr ’18
Michael Janecek ’18
Ms.Jessica Dudley ’14, M.S.N.
Dr. Pascal Accoh ’12, M.D.
Dr. Natalie Simak ’11, M.D.
Dr. Alina Konnikova ’11, M.D.
Dr. Jonathan Flaksman ’11, D.M.D.
Dr. Jennillee Wallace ’09, M.S., Ph.D.
Dr. Brian Kinsman ’09, Ph.D.
Dr. Mithaq Vahedi ’08, M.D.

What is NeuroFrontiers?

Now in its 16th year, this unique public conference is sponsored by the Department of Biology and the Neuroscience Program. Students of several neuroscience and biology courses present their final research projects at this venue. Among them is Senior Seminar NEUR/BIOL480 Neural Frontiers whose students present a non-traditional final exam  On the first day of class, each student was assigned a world leader in a sub-field of neuroscience to role-play. Through the course of the semester, the student researched, read, and synthesized the major papers published by the scientist over his/her scientific career to deeply understand how scientific knowledge accrues over time and how an individual scientist can make important biomedical contributions.  In this process, each student typically read 30-40 articles published over a span 2-3 decades.

During the workshop, each role-playing student becomes the scientist and presents a professional 30-minute seminar on the career-length contributions to neuroscience. The student also authors a review article on this topic that is published in the in-house annual NeuroFrontiers journal, now its sixteenth edition.

A noted Chicago-area neuroscientist is invited to participate in the entire workshop, present her own research as the workshop’s Keynote Address, and to facilitate scientific dialogue between each role-playing student as they critically integrate individual scientist seminars into the broader context of understanding the complex relationship between brain, mind and behavior and the current challenges and the future of biomedicine.

Over 200 students have participated in this workshop since 1998, with more than a hundred of them headed for or already pursuing careers in biomedicine.

The Sixteenth NeuroFrontiers Workshop, April 28, 7:30 am - 5:30 pm

- 4:30 PM
Dr. Joanna Dabrowska, Assistant Professor of Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Neurosience at Rosalind Franklin University of Meidcine and Science (RFUMS), will deliver the keynote address. Dr. Dabrowska earned a PharmD in 2000 from Wroclaw Medical University and a PhD in Neuropharmacology in 2006 from the Medical University of Silesia. She continued her postdoctoral training at Emory University and in 2012 she was awarded a ‘Pathway to Independence’ K99/R00 grant from NIMH. The goal of research in the Dabrowska Lab is to understand how repeated stress exposure can lead to neuroplasticity of selective neuronal circuits and long-term changes in stress-coping behavior, which ultimately leads to the development of psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, and/or addiction. Since chronic stress is a potential risk factor for the development of these disease, her lab seeks to understand how stress interacts with affect at the molecular, cellular, physiological, and behavioral level, and what are their respective roles in the etiology of the mental disorders.


7:45 AM Registration, Lower Lobby, Lillard Science Center Coffee, Juice, and Bagels

8:15 AM Introduction Yoan Ganev ’20 and Eliska Mrackova ’20, Workshop Co-chairs

8:30 am – 10:30 am   Session I: Sensory & Cognitive Frontiers,  Lillard 044

1. Dr. Charles Zuker, Columbia University,  “Sensation to Perception: How Mutants Reveal How We See, Touch, and Feel”, role-played Ms. Sarah Applebey ’18 and Ms. Marisol Gelacio ’18

2. Dr. David Julius, UC San Francisco,  “Hot and Spicy Science: Diverse Ion Channels Help Us Sense Diverse Pain”, role-played by  Ms. Rachel Domijancic ’18 and Ms. Alice Glowacki ’18

3. Dr. Ursula Bellugi ,  The Salk Institute,   “Extraordinary Williams Syndrome: Genetic Deletions, Peaks and Valleys”,  role-played by  Ms. Marisol Carreon ’18and Ms. Sabrina Najibi ’18

4. Dr. Stephen Warren, Emory University, “Bigger is Fragile: CGG Repeats Causes FMR1 Loss and Mental Retardation”, role-played by Mr. Schuyler Kogan ’18 and Ms. Rebecca Lynch ’18

10:30 am – 11:15 am Session II: Thesis Frontiers, Lillard 044         

5. Dr. Brian Kinsman ’09, Penn State University, “How the Brain Senses Salt to Control Blood Pressure”

6. Rosemary Thomas ’18, Lake Forest College, “Modifications That Impact the Toxicity of Parkinson’s Disease Protein alpha-Synuclein”

11:15 am – 12:15 pm, Session III:   Posters I & Lunch, Lillard Lower Lobby    

7. BIOL/NEUR130 Deadly Shapes, Hostage Brain: Exhibit presentations on neurodegenerative diseases

8. BIOL/NEUR372 Pharmacology: Drug, Brain, Behavior: Poster presentations on neurotransmitters and their biology

Session IV: 12:30 – 2:00 pm  Degeneration & Regeneration Frontiers, Lillard 044 

9. Dr. Gideon Dreyfuss, University of Pennsylvania, “Surviving SMA: Correcting Splicing and Other Defects of Mutant SMN”, role-played by Mr. Thomas Steen ’18 and Ms. Mohini Verma ’18

10. Dr. Stephen Strittmatter, Yale University, “Myelin Proteins are Nogo: The Inhibition of Neural Regeneration”, role-played by Ms. Alexandra Skoczek ’18

11. Dr. Huda Zoghbi, Baylor College of Medicine, “Math1, MECP2, Ataxin 1: Three Keys to Brain Development and Disease”, role-played by Ms. Melissa Roshass ’18 and Mr. Parth Tank ’18

2:00-2:45 pm Session V: Beta Beta Beta Alumni Careers Panel, Lillard 044                

Dr. Mithaq Vahedi ’08,  M.D., Thomas Jefferson University; Opthalmology resident
Dr. Jennillee Wallace ’09, Ph.D. in Biology and Postdoctoral Fellow, Rush University
Dr. Brian Kinsman ’09, Ph.D. in Biology and MD studies, Penn State University
Dr. Alina Konnikova ’11, M.D., University of Illinois Chicago; Internal Medicine residency, Medical College of Wisconsin
Dr. Jonathan Flaksman ’11,  D.M.D., LECOM School of Dental Medicine; Dentist, Bright Smile Dental
Dr. Natalie Simak ’11,  M.D., Rosalind Franklin; Resident-Anesthesiology, University of Chicago

Dr. Pascal Accoh ’12,  M.D., Southern Illinois University School of Medicine

Ms. Jessica Dudley ’14, M.S.N. and Doctor of Nursing studies, University of Illinois at Chicago

2:45-3:45 pm Session VI:   Posters II, Lillard Lower Lobby

BIOL/NEURL346 Molecular Neuroscience: Research posters on inquiry-based research projects in animal models of epilepsy

3:45-4:30 PM Nu Rho Psi Reception, Induction & Awards, McCormick Auditorium

Induction of 2018 Current, Alumni, and Faculty Members
Neuroscience Program 2018 Senior Class recognition & Nu Rho Psi Neuroscience Leadership Award

4:30 -5:15 PM ANNUAL Nu Rho Psi LECTURE, McCormick Auditorium                             “Fear Versus Anxiety: A Role for Oxytocin in the Brain” by Dr. Joanna Dabrowska, Ph.D., Pharm.D. Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science

News Contact

Shubhik K. DebBurman, Ph.D.
Chair, Biology Department; Member, Neuroscience Program
Lake Forest College
Ph: (847)-735-6040