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Neuroscience Students Recognized by American Physiological Society

Published on April 9, 2014

Susquehanna University only announced its new neuroscience major in February, but Rebecca Frazier, of Montgomery, Pa., and Katelynn Ondek, of Allentown, Pa., have been finding success in the field for the last four years through their self-designed majors. Most recently, the seniors received David S. Bruce Outstanding Undergraduate Abstract Awards from the American Physiological Society, a nonprofit organization that promotes research and education in the physiological sciences.Susquehanna University neuroscience students Rebecca Frazier and Katelynn Ondek

The awards recognize excellence in the student abstracts scheduled to be presented at the Experimental Biology 2014 conference in San Diego April 27. Frazier and Ondek will present research each conducted with Assistant Professor of Biology Erin Keen-Rhinehart. The abstract awards provide a pathway for the women to compete for David S. Bruce Excellence in Undergraduate Research Awards, which will be selected based on the students’ presentations.

“The fact that both Katelynn and I won this award shows the great potential of the new neuroscience program,” Frazier said.

Frazier and Ondek have both influenced the development of the new major. “Much of our collaborative interactions [related to designing their degrees] provided the foundation for the current neuroscience curriculum,” says Keen-Rhinehart.

Frazier’s presentation, “Effects of Prenatal Food Restriction on Reproductive Function in Adult Female Rats,” examines the impact of prenatal under-nutrition on female rats’ hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, which controls reproductive function. Her research shows that under-nutrition may lead to infertility and premature menopause. Ondek’s presentation, titled “Intrauterine Growth Restriction Increases Tyrosine Hydroxylase Expression and Propensity for Addiction in Low Birth Weight Rats,” suggests that a low-energy maternal diet alters the neural pathway responsible for addictive behavior.

Ondek received a travel award for attending the conference from a previous honor—being named a 2013 Undergraduate Research Fellow by the American Physiological Society. The fellowship also provided her with a $4,000 stipend to pursue full-time research this past summer with Keen-Rhinehart.

As recipients of David S. Bruce Outstanding Undergraduate Abstract Awards, Frazier and Ondek both received $100 prizes and two-year complimentary memberships to the American Physiological Society, which will help them form important professional connections.

Following graduation, Frazier plans to pursue a doctorate in neuropsychology with a focus on autism and neurodegenerative disorders. She currently serves an internship with a neurodevelopmental pediatrician at the Geisinger Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute. Ondek plans to attend the University of California–Davis to study veterinary medicine. She also hopes to continue her neuroscience research and complete a dual degree.


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