Lauren French encourages neurogenesis research of crayfish

French article photo

Students collaborate in hopes of reversing neurological disorders

By Tyler Stigall, Contributing Writer
February 19, 2015
The Campus

French article photo

Since the discovery that neurogenesis definitely occurs after development, French has incorporated research into her classes of the neurogenesis of crayfish in order to find out if there is a way it can relate to the human brain. Photo by Amasa Smith.

The laboratory of Dr. Lauren French, associate professor and department chair of biology at Allegheny, has a conspicuous lack of lab mice. French’s model organism of choice is a slightly less common test subject: the crayfish. Fortunately, she approaches her work with a sense of humor.

“This is the crunchy and squishy biology, as opposed to the warm and fuzzy,” she described.

What had been taken as biological gospel ten years ago is now being reexamined by Aydin Alikaya, ’15, and Gianni Vinci, ’15, two neuroscience students at Allegheny. The duo, former students and advisees of French, are exploring the process and mechanisms of neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells, in crayfish—hence her reference to the lack of lab mice.

Read the full story.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Work by Faculty and Alumna Presented at Annual Meeting of American Public Health Association

Professor of Psychology Patricia Rutledge, Assistant Director of Admissions Kelsy Reisinger ’12 and Associate Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience and Global Health Studies Sarah Conklin presented “Study drugs and academic integrity: Association between beliefs about an academic honor code and non-medical prescription drug use for academic reasons” at the recent annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA).

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Psyched to Dance


Alumnus Discovers Unknown Passion at Allegheny

It was 2007 – the first semester of Carlos Blandino-Lopez’s freshman year.

Thinking that he someday wanted to be a doctor, he walked into the David V. Wise Sport & Fitness Center preparing to register only for neuroscience classes.

At that time, the course registration process “was like a school fair,” Blandino-Lopez says, with students walking from table to table learning about the different classes available.

That’s when Tom Erdos, a former dance and movement studies faculty member, motioned Blandino-Lopez over to his table. He said he needed more men in his ballroom class.

“I thought sure, why not?” Blandino-Lopez says as he jotted down his name on the Introduction to Ballroom roster.

Unbeknownst to him, the moment changed his life.

“We learned the six major dances in that course, and I found out that I had a knack for dance,” says Blandino-Lopez, who originally is from Anchorage, Alaska, but now lives in Pittsburgh. “I was hooked.”

A (Dance) Step in the Right Direction
With his new passion ignited, Blandino-Lopez filled his schedule with dance classes each semester at Allegheny. During his collegiate career, he also completed independent studies focusing on dance, worked as a teacher’s assistant for ballroom classes, and choreographed performances for the College and community.

In addition, Blandino-Lopez worked with other classmates to produce a surprise performance for Professor Erdos. “The entire production was student-run. We worked on it for a full semester,” he says. “We performed 16 pieces with all different types of dance. Professor Erdos had no idea.”

Blandino-Lopez’s love for dance continued to grow – and he began thinking about how he could continue his passion after graduation. That’s when a coach from Arthur Murray Dance Centers in Miami visited his class.

“She took me aside and told me I could do this as a career,” says Blandino-Lopez, who also was involved in the Bonner program, the Association of Black Collegians/Association for the Advancement of Black Culture, Union Latina, and Orchesis at Allegheny. “That really piqued my interest.”

The following year, the Allegheny senior found himself traveling to Pittsburgh for a job interview with Arthur Murray Dance Centers. Shortly after, he landed a position there as a dance instructor – a job he still enjoys today.

“As a teacher, I love seeing how confidence builds in people,” he says. “Even in college, there were people in my classes who were awkward and really didn’t interact with others. Then they would dance and develop confidence. My passion for dance is fueled by the excitement of seeing people learn.”

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Story through Dance
One of the best parts about teaching, Blandino-Lopez says, is being a part of people’s stories. He cites one of his students, an 88-year-old man named Howard, as an example.

“Howard has Alzheimer’s, and the studio is the only place where he gets a sense of normalcy,” he says. “He’s deteriorating in every other aspect of his life, but on some level, he’s progressing here.”

Another student, 74-year-old Judy, was a teacher at Arthur Murray when she was 18.

“It’s so great to talk with her about how things have changed,” he says. “She met her husband through dancing, and now she does it for her own self-confidence and exercise. She told me this is her reason for getting dressed up and leaving the house.

“Over the years, I’ve learned that very few people come here to learn to dance,” he continues. “They come here for something deeper.”

Dance also has affected Blandino-Lopez’s personal life. He met his wife, Elizabeth, while salsa dancing.

“I asked her to dance and she said no,” he says. “Luckily I had the confidence to eventually get her to say yes.”

Although dance was a major focus for Blandino-Lopez at Allegheny – even becoming his minor during his senior year – he continued studying neuroscience, graduating in 2011 with a double major in neuroscience and psychology. He believes this foundation is still applicable to his current profession.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the brain. The reason I came to Allegheny was because I knew it was one of the best in the country for neuroscience,” he says. “It’s really helped me now because I understand the physiological process of how learning works. As a teacher, that foundation helps me to have more patience and understanding with my students.”

Eventually, Blandino-Lopez would like to revisit the connections among neuroscience, psychology, and ballroom dance.

“My senior comp was on ballroom dance and psychological androgyny. I’d like to do more research around ballroom dancing in general,” he says. “A study I read said dancing frequently can reduce your risk for dementia by 76 percent. I’d like to dig into that someday.”

Source: Student & Alumni Features

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Picture Perfect

Students Connect Science and Humanities through Interdisciplinary Research

Three Faculty Members Publish Article on Senior Capstone Experience

Professor of Biology, Neuroscience, and Global Health Studies Lee Coates, Associate Professor of Psychology Aimee Knupsky, and Associate Professor of English Soledad Caballero recently published an article titled “Charting a Required, Senior Capstone: Diverse Scaffolding for Transformative Experiences,” CURQ on the Web, Summer 2014, 34(4):10-15.

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Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Student and Faculty Researchers Present Work at Meeting of the Society for the Quantitative Analysis of Behavior

Lauren Krowitz ’14 and Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Rod Clark presented their study “Some Behavioral Effects of Mefloquine: Evaluation of GABAA and GABAB Antagonists in Rats” at the 37th annual meeting of the Society for the Quantitative Analysis of Behavior (SQAB) in Chicago in May.

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Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Students and Faculty Present Work at Meeting of the Association for Behavior Analysis International

Erin N. Roby ’14 and Alexis E. Crump ’16, with Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Rod Clark, presented their work “Some Behavioral Effects of Mefloquine on Schedule-Controlled Responding in the Rat” at the 40th annual meeting of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) in Chicago in May.

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Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Pensky Is Project Director for Development of New EEG Research Lab

Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Allison Connell Pensky is the project director for the development of an electroencephalography (EEG) research laboratory being funded through an $85,000 grant from the Orris C. Hirtzel and Beatrice Dewey Hirtzel Memorial Foundation. The EEG laboratory will benefit both research and teaching experiences on campus. Pensky had an article published in Perception (volume 43). “Effects of using multiple hands and fingers on haptic performance in individuals who are blind” reports data collected with collaborators from UC Berkeley and the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute. The article discusses how blind individuals benefit from the use of multiple fingers and hands when interacting with tactile maps and that this benefit surpasses those you see in sighted participants.

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Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Seventeen Allegheny Students Participate in Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research and Creative Accomplishment Conference

Seventeen Allegheny students participated in the Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research and Creative Accomplishment Conference held at Penn State Behrend on April 12. They are (with their faculty advisors listed in parentheses): Leanne Balster ’14 (Stephanie Martin and Ben Slote), Patricia Belle ’14 (Brad Hersh), Mark Burkhart ’14 (Scott Wissinger), Jordan Gaston ’16 (Tricia Humphreys), Shelby Hernan ’15 (Jeff Cross), Maria Miranda ’14 (Jeff Cross), Allison Palmer ’14 (Tricia Humphreys), Patrick Payne ’15 (Stephanie Martin), Kirsten Ressel ’14 (Scott Wissinger and Matt Venesky), Tashina Robinson ’14 (Tricia Humphreys), Kelsey Sadlek ’14 (Brad Hersh), Samantha Skobel ’16 (Jeff Cross), Amanda Spadaro ’15 (Kristen Webb), Rachel Stegemann ’14 (Brad Hersh), Adrianna Stolarski ’14 (Milt Ostrofsky), Rachel Verno ’14 (Stephanie Martin), and Jennie Vorhauer ’14 (Brad Hersh). Gaston, Hernan, Ressel, Stegemann, and Stolarski were given awards for best presentations in their sessions. A total of 248 students and 136 faculty from 13 colleges in western and central Pennsylvania participated in the conference.

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Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Coates and Willey Present Work at Council on Undergraduate Research Workshop

Professor of Biology, Neuroscience, and Global Health Studies E. Lee Coates and Professor of Physics Dan Willey recently presented “Development of an Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Office at Allegheny College” at a Council on Undergraduate Research workshop held in Alexandria, Virginia. Coates also presented “Development of a Summer Research Community” during one of the workshop sessions.

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Source: Academics, Publications & Research