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Several Westminster Students Attend Neuroscience Conference

Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Five Westminster College students recently attended the international Society for Neuroscience Conference in New Orleans.

"The students attended several symposia, looked at posters summarizing neuroscience activity around the world, and attended events sponsored by the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience held at the conference," said Dr. Alan Gittis, professor of psychology at Westminster College.

Attending the conference with Gittis were: David Dobbins, senior neuroscience major and son of Chester and Karen Dobbins from Conway; Amy Rushin, senior psychology major and daughter of Karen and the late Michael Rushin from Corry; Rachel Smith, senior psychology major and daughter of Warren and Gretchen Smith from Middletown; Gregory Steines, junior biology and neuroscience major and son of Gerald and Kathy Steines from Beaver Falls; Anna Thomas, senior psychology major and daughter of Timothy and Susan Thomas from Ridgway.

While at the conference Gittis presented a poster that was co-authored by Richelle Vajdich, a 2003 Westminster graduate, that was titled, "Effects in the Spatial DNMTS Working Memory Task."

"The DNMTS task is one of the major ways higher order memory is assessed in the analysis of brain-behavior relationships using animal subjects," Gittis said. "The study demonstrated that if the questions is framed appropriately, the memory of animals closely resembles human memory for list of words."

"This project that I presented was Richelle's senior thesis project," Gittis continued. "She did a particularly fine job in collecting the data over several months, and spent many hours in the lab on a daily basis. She kept meticulous notes on the animal's performance that are of sufficient quality and detail that we were able to discern exactly how the animal's memory worked.'"

Gittis also participated on a panel sponsored by the Association of Neuroscience and Departments and Programs. The panel, "Getting the Job You Want and Keeping It," was attended by neuroscience graduate and post-doctoral students. Gittis' presentation dealt with tips on landing positions in small liberal arts schools.

Six alumni of the Westminster College neuroscience program authored or co-authored presentations at the conference. They include: Lauren Burhans, a 1997 graduate who is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois; Tara Byrd, a 2000 graduate who is a lab technician at Case Western Reserve; Amanda Kopp, a 2002 graduate who is a lab technician at the University of Pennsylvania; Chris Meade, a 1990 graduate who is currently a professor at the University of Tennessee at Memphis; Dan Miller, a 1983 graduate who is currently a professor at Carthage College; and Brent Witgen, a 2000 graduate who is currently a lab technician at the University of Pennsylvania, but will be entering the Ph.D. program in the field of stereology at the University of Arhaus in Denmark.

For more information, contact Gittis at (724) 946-7358 or e-mail