Professor and Students Attended International Neuroscience Conference

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Seven Westminster College students and their adviser attended the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience Oct. 16-22 in Chicago. Westminster students presented research and participated in a variety of activities that included major addresses by renowned scientists and poster presentations.

According to Dr. Alan Gittis, Westminster professor of psychology who accompanied the students, this meeting is the major international event in the field and is attended by more than 30,000 scientists. Gittis presented the poster "Neonatal Clomipramine Injections Reduce Sensitivity to Incentive Probabilities in a Memory Task" on the floor of the main session. The poster was co-authored by 2009 Westminster graduate Jacob Martinez and documented the results of his senior thesis.

Junior biology major Brielle Kelly presented "Brain Awareness as a Laboratory Project in an Undergraduate Behavioral Neuroscience Class," a poster documenting her contributions to the Brain Awareness laboratory incorporated into Gittis' "Behavioral Neuroscience" class, at the Brain Awareness annual kick-off event. Attending that event was Tom Carew, president of the Society for Neuroscience.

"It's hard to sum up everything I learned from attending the meeting, but if I had to choose just one memory, it would be the environment that I was in," Kelly said. "I was walking with experts in the field of neuroscience and listening to speakers who amazed me with how much we know about the brain and its effects on our everyday lives. This meeting encouraged me to continue my dream of studying neuroscience."

Junior psychology and mathematics major Mikayla Barcus and junior psychology major Matthew Facciani presented their Brain Awareness poster at the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN) poster session.

"Since there are always presentations to attend and posters to look at, this conference is a great experience for anyone with an interest in neuroscience," Barcus said. "And, with over 30,000 neuroscientists attending, it is a great opportunity to network. I hope more Westminster students have the opportunity to attend this conference."

"Attending the conference in Chicago was one of the most intellectually enriching and gratifying experiences I've had during my undergraduate career," Facciani said. "I was fortunate to be able to attend and strongly suggest other Westminster students travel to conferences [in their disciplines]."

Kelly, Barcus, and Facciani received travel/presentation grants from Westminster's Drinko Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

Junior neuroscience major Jennifer Nelson, who assisted Gittis and Martinez with a research project last semester, presented a poster documenting that research at the FUN poster session.

Other Westminster neuroscience majors attending the meeting were senior Alexandra Alfieri, junior Rachael Hoffman, and sophomore Kristina Scanlan.

Contact Gittis at (724) 946-7358 or e-mail for additional information.

About Westminster College...
Founded in 1852 and related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Westminster College is a top tier liberal arts college and a national leader in graduation rate performance, according to U.S. News Guide to America's Best Colleges. Westminster ranked third among liberal arts colleges in social mobility, according to the Washington Monthly College Guide, and is one of the most affordable national liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania. Westminster is also honored as one of "The Best 371 Colleges" and "Best in the Northeast" by The Princeton Review, and is named to the President's Honor Roll for excellence in service learning.

Nearly 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students benefit from individualized attention from dedicated faculty while choosing from 41 majors and nearly 100 organizations on the New Wilmington, Pa., campus.

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Matt Facciani and Mikayla Barcus


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Brielle Kelly


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(l-r) Rachael Hoffman, Jennifer Nelson, Brielle Kelly, Dr. Alan Gittis, Matt Facciani, Mikayla Barcus, Alex Alfieri, Kristina Scanlan


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Matt Facciani and Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel