Behavioral Neuroscience Students Garner International Recognition

Jul 17, 2018


three smiling studentsRandolph-Macon College students in the Behavioral Neuroscience program continue to be recognized internationally for their contributions to the field. For the fourth time in the past nine years, R-MC students won first prize for the best undergraduate poster at the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society (IBNS), which was recently held in Boca Raton, Florida. This year's winner was Sammi Scarola '18, a behavioral neuroscience and chemistry major.

Scarola was also the recipient of the first prize at the 2017 IBNS meeting in Hiroshima, Japan, thus becoming the first undergraduate student ever—from any college—to receive this honor twice in a row. Scarola will enter the Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine this fall.

Scarola worked alongside Jose Perdomo Trejo '19 (behavioral neuroscience and biology major) and Megan Granger '18, a behavioral neuroscience major who is applying to graduate nursing schools. The three studied several protective factors against the negative effects of aging in rats for more than a year, starting in June 2017, in conjunction with R-MC's Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. SURF gives students the opportunity to conduct 10 weeks of research under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

Scarola focused on environmental enrichment and the immune response; Perdomo Trejo on the effects of long-term administration of caffeine; and Granger on the synergetic effects of exercise and natural enrichment.

"We are very proud of our students and our lab," says Massimo Bardi, psychology professor and director of the Behavioral Neuroscience program. "Sammi, Jose and Megan worked very hard for a long time, making sure their research took priority while taking classes, preparing for the next stage of their lives, and overcoming the many challenges that researchers encounter in such a long-term study. Psychology Professor Kim Gerecke and I have established a very cohesive lab atmosphere, and our students benefit tremendously from this collaborative work."

An Enriched Learning Environment
After the conference, Scarola, Perdomo Trejo and Granger visited R-MC's Primate Field Laboratory in Miami, Florida, where they observed several species of primates, including Long-tailed Macaques.

"The Behavioral Neuroscience major offers a variety of research opportunities for our students, who can learn so many different techniques—from endocrine analysis to immunocytochemistry, from deep behavioral and statistical analysis to theoretical modeling—as they study different model organisms: monkeys, fish, laboratory animals, raccoons, and humans," says Bardi. "It is incredible how our students can compete with schools from all over the world and be ready to continue their career paths in their field of choice."

Students in the major have a wide variety of post-R-MC options, including the medical field and graduate programs.

"We've also had students pursue careers in veterinary and animal behavior, dentistry, neuroeconomics and research analytics," says Bardi. "Thanks to the hard work and dedication of students and faculty, R-MC offers an enriched learning environment that helps shape each student's potential."