Graduate Student Winner

  • Lauren Fritsch


  1. Rachana Somaiya
  2. Keaton Unroe

Undergraduate Student Winners

  • Nicholas Russell
  • Carolyn Clinton
  • Yusef Rafiqzad
  • Michaella Bono

Second Annual School of Neuroscience Research Retreat

As we prepare for the fall semester, still finding our feet as we navigate through the uncertainty of the continued COVID-19 landscape, it’s important to take time and remind ourselves that in spite of hardship, Hokies find a way to do great work. In this spirit, on Friday, August 6th the School of Neuroscience hosted its second annual summer research retreat. 

Our own Sarah Clinton kicked off a fantastic day. Our keynote speaker, Read Montague of the FBRI, shared new data from his lab focused on new technologies for sampling neurotransmitters directly in awake humans. Those in attendance also got to learn about the diverse research programs being run in the labs of our SoN faculty, with awesome delivered by undergraduate, graduate student, and post doctoral trainees. From pre-clinical models of psychiatric disorders like depression, to novel targets for treating obesity, epigenetics, cutting edge neurophysiology, and the modulation of neural activity by signals from the gut, the VT SoN is quickly becoming a destination for all subfields of neuroscience! 

Every talk was stellar, which made the task of the committee of SoN faculty and students assembled to award three speakers from the graduate student and post doc talks with prizes for their presentations VERY difficult. After much consideration, the committee is happy to announce the recipient of our second SoN Research Retreat award for best presentation, Lauren Fritsch! SoN would also like to recognize first runner-up Rachana Somaiya, and second runner-up Keaton Unroe. Each of these trainees will be recognized with a special prize in honor of their achievement. Great job!

We also had a special session, wherein we got to learn about the research of our Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows. Originally, we had planned to offer prizes for the top 3 talks, but they were all TOO good. In the end, 4 students tied for best presentation, Nicholas Russell, Carolyn Clinton, Yusef Rafiqzad, and Michaella Bono. Fantastic job all around!

On behalf of the Research Retreat organizing committee, and all the faculty and staff in the SoN, we thank each and every person for their contributions to this event. It has been a hard year, and it is almost hard to believe how much cool science has been done in the midst of it all. We say “almost”, because you are all amazing. Keep it up SoN! We eagerly await next summer, for many reasons, but assuredly one is the next Research Retreat and chance to hear about the latest and greatest goings-on in the SoN!


2021 Retreat Agenda

Dr. Sarah Clinton will kick off the event with opening remarks.

Gabby Carrillo (Dr. Fox Lab)

·       Complement-dependent neuron-glia interactions mediate the loss of perisomatic inhibitory synapses in Toxoplasma gondii infection

Beatriz Torres (Dr. Olsen Lab)

·      Examining BDNf/Astrocytic TrkB.T1 signaling as a mechanism underlying perisynaptic astrocyte process recruitment

Cristina Miliano (Dr. Buczynski Lab)

·      Identification of a druggable CART receptor that mediates motivated feeding behavior

Alec Hartle (Dr. Howe Lab)

·      Unique effects of macronutrient combinations on dopamine release and food choice

Kijana George (Dr. Robel Lab)

·      Leakage of blood-borne factors triggers an atypical astrocyte phenotype after concussive traumatic brain injury

Rachana Deven Somaiya (Dr. Fox Lab)

·      Sonic hedgehog signaling as an intermediary between retinal inputs and astrocytes for the recruitment of thalamic interneurons

   Keynote speech by Dr. Read Montague

  • Invasive approaches in the future of Computational Psychiatry

Kaiser Arndt (Dr. English Lab)

·       Organization of oscillatory activity across layers and cell types of the granular retrosplenial cortex in awake mice

Lauren Fritsch (Dr. Pickrell Lab)

·       Type I Interferon Response is Mediated by the NLRX1-cGAS-STING Signaling Axis Triggered by Mitochondrial DNA in Brain Injury

Aspen Gustin (Dr. Jarome Lab)

·       Protein sumoylation is a sex-specific regulator of fear memory formation

Ray Hernandez (Dr. Olsen Lab)

·       Aberrant astrocyte gene expression and maturation during CNS refinement in Rett Syndrome model mice

Keaton Unroe (Dr. Clinton Lab)

·       Manipulating the expression of GPCR Bai3 in the developing dentate gyrus improves depression-related behaviors

Thomas Vaden (Dr. Ni Lab)

·       Responses to temperatures of different Drosophila species

Yusuf Rafiqzad (Dr. Robel Lab)

·       BBB leakage causes an atypical neuronal phenotype after early mTBI

Julia Byrnes (Dr. Vijayan Lab)

·       Exploration of brain areas activated by visual and auditory imagery through intracranial electrodes

Carolyn Clinton (Dr. Clinton Lab)

·       Focused Ultrasound Neuromodulation in a Rodent Model of Depression

Conrad Quinn (Dr. Cline Lab)

·       Central Mechanism of Gastrin Induced Satiety in Broiler Chicks

Michaella Bono (Dr. Howe Lab)

·       Spatially-specific cholinergic modulation of the intralaminar thalamus

Nicholas Russell (Dr. Buczynski Lab)

·       Measuring Endocannabinoid Levels in the Nucleus Accumbens Shell Using In Vivo Microdialysis

Nola Storey (Dr. Hodes Lab)

·       Effects of Pro-Inflammatory Microglia Activation on Behavior in Female Mice

Tamer Whittle-Hage (Dr. Clinton Lab)

·       Blood brain barrier disruption in a Mouse Model of Chronic Stress