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Neurodegeneration Undergraduate Research Experience (NURE)

2019 NURE Monday, May 20 to Friday, July 26, 2019

DUE DATE FOR Summer 2019 NURE is February 15, 2019 for external applicants and Duquesne University Students.


Program Description

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 Summer Research Experience Grant and has been funded previously by the generous support of the Duquesne University Charles Henry Leach II Fund.

We highly encourage students whose backgrounds encompass diversity in culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, and economic background to apply. 

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. Develop and present to local middle school students an educational demonstration for our Community Engaged Learning program. 
  6. Receive a competitive summer stipend (typically >$4,000) and free on-campus housing.

Eligibility and Application Requirements

There are two parts to the application:

1. Statement of Goals: In 2 pages or less (1) describe your interest in scientific research (2) describe your interest in neurodegenerative disease or neurodegenerative disease research including information that might help us place you in a research lab (hint - Look at the faculty list below to find research you are interested in) and (3) tell us about your future scientific goals and how the program will help you achieve those goals.

2. Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV): (No page limit) Please include your educational background, extracurricular activities, previous research experience, and publications/presentations (if any).

All undergraduate science major students are eligible to apply for the NURE. However, students must identify a research mentor and neuroscience-specific project in order to be considered for the program. A list of researchers at Duquesne University that are involved in neuroscience research can be found below. 

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.

Application to the NURE program does not exclude students from being considered for the main 2018 Summer Undergraduate Research Program or the Pain Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE)

NURE Application due dates:  External and Duquesne students - February 15, 2019

NURE Faculty 

Please identify and contact faculty prior to submitting your application

Faculty Member Department Research Area
Jane Cavanaugh, Ph.D. Pharmaceutical Sciences Age-related neurodegeneration
Michael Cascio, Ph.D. Chemistry and Biochemistry Structural characterization of ion channels and transporters
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
Benedict J. Kolber, Ph.D. Biological Sciences Study the higher control of chronic neuropathic pain and interaction with stress adaptation
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
Devica 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 
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

NURE Alumni


Student Name (major) 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)

2017 PURE and NURE Fellows