Spring 2023 student and staff recognitions

May 12, 2023

So many awards, so much to celebrate! If we’ve accidentally omitted someone from this story, please let us know! And congratulations to all our graduates!

The 25th Undergraduate Research Symposium occurred April 28 at Union South and included abstracts by 24 students mentored by WNPRC faculty. We are also excited to share that Marina Emborg, M.D., Ph.D., and Molly Willging, Ph.D. candidate, pictured here, were among seven recipients of UW–Madison’s Undergraduate Research Symposium Mentor Awards.

Preethi Saravanan, a junior majoring in biology (honors and pre-medicine track) received a 2023 Wisconsin Hilldale Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Her faculty advisor is Marina Emborg, M.D., Ph.D., and her project title is “Distribution of dopaminergic innervation in the amygdala of hemiparkinsonian monkeys and it’s connection to depression and anxiety.”

Haoshen Zhai, who is majoring in neurobiology, received a 2023 Wisconsin Hilldale Undergraduate Research Fellowship provided through the McPherson Eye Research Institute. His faculty advisor is Raunak Sinha, Ph.D., and his project title is “Regional variation in the organization of cone photoreceptor synapse across primate retina.”

Megan Prahl, a junior majoring in neurobiology and psychology, received a 2023 Wisconsin Hilldale Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Her faculty advisor is Allyson Bennett and her project title is “Evolutionary origins of brain-behavior relationship: Does behavioral lateralization predict approach/avoidance behavior in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)?”

Gabriela de Faria Oliveira, a graduate student mentored by Toni Ziegler, Ph.D., was recently awarded the Welcome Initiative Award to present both her marmoset and puberty blockers research at the Society for Behavioral Neuroscience meeting in June 26-29, 2023 in Tours France. In addition, she has received the Ruppenthal Student Travel Award to attend the American Society of Primatologists 2023 meeting June 20-23 in Denver and present her research.

Beverly Hutcherson, M.S., a recent Endocrinology-Reproductive Physiology Program student mentored by David Abbott, Ph.D., received the Student National Medical Association’s Excellence in Pre-Medical Education Award, which recognizes medical students for outstanding contributions and achievements as a physician, medical or pre-medical student. Hutcherson, who has been involved in this work since 2016, received the award at SNMA’s Annual Medical Education Conference in Hartford, Connecticut April 5-9, 2023.

Amy Laufenberg, LAT, WNPRC animal care manager, pictured here, has received the 2022-2023 U. Kristina Stephens Award for outstanding contributions to the field of laboratory animal management service, teaching and education. Amy serves as Program and Awards Committee Co-Chair for the Laboratory Animal Management Association (LAMA).

Casey Ostheimer, who graduates this spring in genetics and neurobiology, received a Promega International Scientific Internship Scholarship for a summer research position at Reykjavik University, Iceland, in its Biomedical and Neural Engineering Institute. Casey is an undergraduate researcher in Owen Tamplin’s Cell and Regenerative Biology lab, and is also the WNPRC’s outreach and editorial intern, working with Jordana Lenon.

Samantha Williams, a first-year medical student, received a Shapiro Summer Research Program award for 2023, with senior mentor Dan Uhlrich, Ph.D., co-mentor David Abbott, Ph.D., and collaborator Jon Levine, Ph.D. She will be working to show that knockdown of estrogen receptor alpha expression in the mediobasal hypothalamus of prepubertal female rhesus monkeys accelerates the neuroendocrine onset of puberty and thus menarche and first ovulation. This would open the door for future brain-only mild estrogenic treatment, a potential therapeutic already in monkey trials, to prevent precocious puberty or brain-only estrogen antagonism to overcome substantial puberty delay.

Read more student and staff news here.