NURE students pose outside of Mellon Hall at Duquesne

Neurodegenerative Undergraduate Research Experience (NURE)

Monday, May 23 to Friday, July 29, 2022

Summer 2022 NURE application deadline is February 25, 2022 for external applicants and Duquesne University Students. (Note - If you are a Duquesne Student, you can still apply to the general URP program with the March 14, 2022 due date.)

We welcome undergraduate biology, pharmacy, chemistry, biochemistry, psychology and health science majors interested in neuroscience and neurodegenerative research to apply to the Neurodegenerative Undergraduate Research Experience (NURE) summer program. Applicants should apply through the application button below which is specific to the NURE (and PURE) programs. This program is currently funded through a National Institutes of Health NINDS R25 Summer Research Experience Grant and has been funded previously by the generous support of the Duquesne University Charles Henry Leach II Fund.



Program Objectives

The innovation of this program centers on involving students in basic science and clinical neuroscience research at the undergraduate level. The objectives of this program are to:

  • Provide a means for students interested in biomedical research to participate in a full-time mentored research experience.
  • Connect undergraduate students with faculty mentors working on neuroscience-specific basic science questions.
  • Stimulate neuroscience and neurodegenerative research at Duquesne University by bringing together experts in the neurobiology, chemistry, drug discovery and clinical fields with excellent undergraduate researchers.
  • Explore the physiological, chemical and psychological components of neuroscience disorders, treatments and research.
  • Aid in the professional growth of undergraduate students and faculty mentors through interactions with individuals who are currently living with neurodegenerative disorders.
  • Provide effective and meaningful discussions and training in ethics related to both the treatment and study of neurodegenerative disorders.

Program Details

Each undergraduate fellow will be paired with a faculty mentor for the summer. This faculty mentor will help guide the student through a summer research topic that will explore a timely and important question in the field of neuroscience. Students will work in the research lab for the majority of their time in the summer. In addition, students will:

  1. Participate in a 6-week long ethics mini-course with the rest of the Summer Undergraduate Research Program.
  2. Attend a once per month journal club where they will discuss primary literature with faculty, students and clinicians.
  3. Have the opportunity to interact with individuals that are currently living with neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease. These interactions will help students understand the personal and practical aspects of managing neurodegenerative disease. 
  4. Use a "neuroscience empathy kit" developed here at Duquesne that simulates some of the sensations experienced by individuals living with neurodegenerative disorders.
  5. Receive a competitive summer stipend (typically >$4,000) and free on-campus housing. Meal plans may also be available depending on funding. 


NURE Co-Directors - Dr. Michael Casio and Dr. Rita Mihailescu

PURE Co-Directors - Dr. Kevin Tidgewell and Dr. Benedict Kolber


All undergraduate science major students are eligible to apply for the NURE. You will be asked to list up to three potential research mentors who you are interested in working with on the application. A list of researchers at Duquesne University that are involved in neuroscience research can be found in the tab to the right.  We encourage you to discuss why those researchers interest you in your Statement of Goals.

We particular encourage both internal and external applicants from under-represented groups in science. No prior experience in research is necessary but a specific interest in neuroscience must be clear. See application requirements below or click to apply by February 7, 2020.

Application Requirements:

  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae (preferred): Describe your educational background, extracurricular activities, previous research experience, and publications/presentations (if any). No page limit.
  • Statement of Goals : In 2 pages or less (1) describe your interest in scientific research (2) describe your interest in neuroscience or neurodegenerative research and (3) tell us about your future scientific and career goals and how the program will help you achieve those goals.
  • Two letters of recommendation 
  • Most recent official transcript (transcript must be mailed)

Application to the NURE program does not exclude students from being considered for the main 2020 Summer Undergraduate Research Program or the Pain Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE).


Please identify up to three faculty prior to submitting your application. You are welcome (but not required) to contact faculty prior to submitting your application.

Faculty Member Department Research Area
Erica Beidler, Ph.D., M.Ed. Athletic Training Impact of concussions on cognition
Jane Cavanaugh, Ph.D. Pharmaceutical Sciences Age-related neurodegeneration
Michael Cascio, Ph.D. Chemistry and Biochemistry Structural characterization of ion channels and transporters
Jill Dembowski, Ph.D. Biological Sciences Mechanisms of viral pathology in the nervous system
Elena V. Donoso Brown, Ph.D., OTR/L Occupational Therapy Assessment of impairments in neurological populations including stroke, traumatic brain injury, and Parkinson's disease
Linda Garand, Ph.D., GCNS-BC Nursing Promoting the mental health and quality of life of older adults; design and conduct of randomized clinical trials of psycho educational interventions
Jelena M. Janjic, Ph.D. Pharmaceutical Sciences Nanoparticles and neuroinflammation
Matthew Kostek, Ph.D. Physical Therapy Treatment therapy to reduce inflammation, increase utrophin and improve function in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
Rebecca Kronk, Ph.D., MSN, CRNP Nursing Investigate sleep in children with fragile X syndrome
Alexander Kranjec, Ph.D. Psychology Behavioral methods, neuroimaging (fMRI) and non-invasive brain stimulation (tDCS) in normal participants, and lesion analysis methods in patients with focal brain damage
David Lapinsky, Ph.D. Pharmaceutical Sciences Rational design and synthesis of clickable covalent ligands for CNS drug target discovery
Rehana K. Leak, Ph.D. Pharmaceutical Sciences Study mechanisms underlying the pathology of neurodegenerative disorders and test potential therapies
Devika S, Manickam, Ph.D. Pharmaceutical Sciences Nanoparticle carriers for safe and efficient delivery of biotherapeutic drugs to the central nervous system
Rita Mihailescu, Ph.D. Chemistry and Biochemistry Protein-RNA interactions in Fragile X syndrome and ALS/FTD
Rachael Neilan, Ph.D. Mathematics and Computer Science Computational modeling of neuronal responses in chronic pain
Lauren A. O'Donnell, Ph.D. Pharmaceutical Sciences Study how the anti-viral
immune response impacts on development of neural cells during CNS infections
Kyle Selcer, Ph.D. Biological Sciences Role of estrogens and androgens 
Kim Szucs, Ph.D. Occupational Therapy Shoulder injury, anatomy, and pain
Kevin J. Tidgewell, Ph.D. Pharmaceutical Sciences Drug discovery from marine cyanobacteria for CNS disorders
Sarah E. Wallace, M.A., Ph.D. Speech Language Pathology Research on compensatory strategies for individuals with neurogenic communication disorders (e.g. stroke or TBI)
Sarah Woodley, Ph.D. Biological Sciences Mechanisms of environmental stressors on amphibian neuroplasticity


Student Name  Home Institution Faculty Mentor
Ruben Cano Rodriguez University of Texas El Paso Dr. Rehana Leak (Pharmacy)
Madison Crago Gannon University Dr. Rita Mihailescu (Chemistry)
David Gomez East Los Angeles College Dr. Kevin Tidgewell (Medicinal Chemistry)
Katie Hoover Mansfield University Dr. Devika Manickam (Pharmacy)
Jordan Martin Florida Southern College Dr. Jane Cavanaugh (Pharmacy)
Jeff Montoya Vassar College Dr. Elena Donoso Brown (Occupational Therapy)
Natasha Morales Boston University Dr. Sarah Wallace (Speech and Language Pathology)
Kimberly Taylor Waynesburg University Dr. Patrick Flaherty (Medicinal Chemistry)
Austin Gregg Duquesne University Dr. Mike Cascio (Chemistry)
Sage Templeton University of California Berkeley Dr. David Lapinsky (Medicinal Chemistry)
Kayla Widenhofer Duquesne University Dr. Rehana Leak (Pharmacy)


Student Name Home Institution Faculy Mentor
Mikaela Cadiz University of Minnesota - Morris Dr. Lauren O'Donnell (Pharmacy)
Lisa Cha University of California - Berkeley Dr. Sarah Woodley (Biology)
Elizabeth Eckoff Duquesne University Dr. Rehana Leak (Pharmacy)
Sydney Graves Saginaw Valley State University Dr. Devika Manickam (Pharmacy)
Seraina Schottland George Washington University Dr. Jane Cavanaugh (Pharmacy)
McKenna Then Duquesne University Dr. Rita Mihailescu (Chemistry)
Justina Warnick Dickinson College Dr. Allyson O'Donnell (Biology)
Marie Weckesser University of Dayton Dr. Michael Cascio (Chemistry)


Student Name (major) Home Institution Faculty Mentor
Josh Baktay (Math and CS) Duquesne University Dr. Rachael Neilan (Math and CS)
Abigail Cox (Biology) Duquesne University Dr. Benedict Kolber (Biology)
Jordan Allen (Biochemistry) Hamilton College Dr. Matthew Kostek (Physical Therapy)
Linedia Masson (Biology) Florida Memorial University Dr. Kevin Tidgewell (Pharmacy)
Brionna Nelson (Biology) Duquesne University Dr. Jan Janecka (Biology)
Janique Miller (Biology) Florida Memorial University Dr. Michael Cascio (Chemistry)
Makenzie Woltz (Biology) Clarion University Dr. Lauren O'Donnell (Pharmacy)
Paul Zakutansky (Biochemistry) Duquesne University Dr. Rita Mihailescu (Chemistry)