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Neuroscience major Susan Bothwell ’05 (Warminster, Pa.) was recently named a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Undergraduate Scholarship Program Scholar, one of 16 students in the nation selected to receive the award among more than 300 applicants.

The honor includes a $20,000 scholarship; a 10-week research experience in the NIH lab of her choice next summer, which she will devote to advancing her research on Parkinson’s disease; and a research position at an NIH lab during her year off before attending medical school.

Bothwell was flown to Bethesda, Md., and interviewed by NIH officials as a finalist for the award, which she received in part for her research experience at Lafayette and her plans for further investigation of Parkinson’s disease.

“It’s really important to me. There is no known cause for the disease, but hopefully that will change as we come to know more about it,” she says.

Bothwell will conduct yearlong, independent honors research on the Drosophila fly, commonly known as the fruit fly, which she believes will be greatly beneficial in providing information about the illness.

“I’m taking a genetic approach in studying this,” she says. “It’s a relatively new field and it’s really, really exciting.”

Elaine Reynolds, associate professor of biology and chair of neuroscience at Lafayette, will oversee her research, which Bothwell will present to researchers from universities across the country. Reynolds has mentored many Lafayette students in fruit fly research, a significant number of whom have published their results in scientific journals and presented them at conferences such as the Meeting on Neurobiology of Drosophila, the Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. She received a $168,779 National Science Foundation grant for her neuroscience research last year and has published her own findings in scientific journals.

Bothwell, who was invited to join the Phi Beta Kappa national academic honor society this spring, says that she ultimately wants to use the opportunities she has been given to significantly help people.

“I want to find information that will improve people’s lives,” she says. “I’ve had a really positive experience in my research work at Lafayette. We’re working together so that this research can be used for the betterment of society.”

In October, Bothwell will present her summer research on the effects of Ritalin on laboratory rats with Gabrielle Britton, assistant professor of psychology at Lafayette, at the Society of Neuroscience 34th Annual Meeting in San Diego. The pair collaborated through Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, in which students conduct research with faculty while earning a stipend. The program has helped to make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate each year share their work through articles in academic journals and/or conference presentations.

“People think that Ritalin is a really good drug and does a lot of good things, but they don’t know that it actually might impair certain physical functions,” says Bothwell, who performed surgery on the rats and analyzed data.

“Dr. Britton was incredible to work with,” she adds. “She’s phenomenal because she’s so helpful. Doing this research and working on this project really confirmed that I want to be a surgeon.”

Bothwell believes Lafayette’s environment enables research to be a very rewarding experience.

“We have really great facilities here,” she says. “I feel as though this school made me a better candidate for the work that lies ahead of me. The faculty here are so nurturing and caring.”

Bothwell, who also has conducted research at the University of North Carolina and Duke University, says she “can’t wait to go” to medical school. Her research at Duke was made possible by the Lafayette Alumni Research Network, which provides research internships for neuroscience majors. Bothwell worked with Kevin LaBar ’90, assistant professor and core faculty of the Center of Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University, who studies the cognitive neuroscience of emotional learning and memory.

Bothwell serves as executive chair of Family Weekend, building president of the Residence Hall Council, and president of the National Residence Hall Honorary, an organization that recognizes individuals who do good deeds on campus. She coordinates volunteer programs at Lafayette’s Landis Community Outreach Center and works as a volunteer at Easton Hospital’s clinic. She is a member of the Spanish Club for Kids, and as a member of the Neighborhood Tutoring Program, Bothwell aids individuals in need of academic assistance who cannot afford to hire a tutor.

Selected from among Lafayette’s top applicants, Trustee Scholars like Bothwell have distinguished themselves through exceptional academic achievement in high school. They receive from Lafayette an annual minimum scholarship of $7,500 (totaling $30,000 over four years) or a grant in the full amount of their demonstrated need if the need is more than $7,500.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Forty-two students were accepted to present their work at the last annual conference in April.

Categorized in: Academic News