Students attend neuroscience conference

Two Bates graduates recently presented their senior thesis research to an international neuroscience conference in Cancun, Mexico.
Ellen M. Mahoney, a psychology major from Needham, Mass., and Shiuli Mukhopadhyay, an interdisciplinary biopsychology major from Ahmedabad, India, attended the 5th International Behavioral Neuroscience Society Conference (IBNS), an international gathering attended by behavioral neuroscience researchers from all over the world. Cheryl McCormick, assistant professor of psychology at Bates and thesis adviser for both Mahoney and Mukhopadhyay, attended the Cancun conference with her students.

Mahoney discussed the findings of her thesis on the role of sex hormones early in the development of rats, and how they respond to stress as adults. Mahoney received high honors for her thesis.

Mukhopadhyay’s two-semester study investigated the effects of long-term- (three to four months) removal of the adrenal gland on memory and pain sensitivity. The results revealed evidence of heightened sensitivity to one of the hormones secreted by the adrenal gland.

The purpose of the IBNS meeting is to facilitate communication among scientists engaged in understanding the neural basis of behavior. The conference’s scientific program includes lectures, symposia, oral communications and poster sessions. Mahoney and Mukhopadhyay presented their findings in poster form.

According to McCormick, although very few undergraduates participate in research conferences, “It’s an invaluable experience and the students find it tremendously beneficial. Research experience provides critical thinking skills and allows them to make informed choices about their careers,” says McCormick, who maintains that medical schools and biotech graduate programs look for research experience. “Doing a canned lab as part of a course, where you know the results beforehand, can never match the experience of real research,” she says.

Bates student research was funded in part by a $500,000 grant awarded in 1993 to Bates by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for the enhancement of the college’s programs in the sciences. The funding includes making it possible for students to attend scholarly meetings with professors. McCormick attended the 1995 IBNS in Spain with four Bates undergraduates.

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