Nicole Hadeed '11 and Cecilia Fox Present Research at the Capitols

In October, Nicole Hadeed '11 and Professor Cecilia Fox presented their research on selenium and Parkinson's disease at undergraduate research events in Harrisburg (top) and Washington, D.C. (above). The poster was one of only eight selected for the Washington presentation.

Pre-med student Nicole Hadeed '11 has had an exciting semester. Working with Cecilia Fox, associate professor of biological sciences and director of the neuroscience program, the Honors student presented a poster in Harrisburg for the Undergraduate Research at the Capitol event, October 5. Last week, Hadeed and Fox again presented their work, this time in Washington, D.C., at the Council on Undergraduate Research's "Posters on the Hill" event at the Capitol building.

Their work—titled "Dietary Selenium Protects Dopamine Levels and May Improve Fine and Gross Motor Behavior in the 6-Hydroxydopamine Rat Model of Parkinson's Disease"—was one of only eight posters chosen for display at the Library of Congress, and the only undergraduate research presentation from the Lehigh Valley area.

"It was intellectually stimulating to hear what other students are researching, not only in science, but also in the humanities," said Hadeed. "Being at the conferences gave my research a human element, too. Talking with so many people who had relatives with Parkinson's disease helped me see how this work will impact the world." In Harrisburg, Hadeed and Professor Fox also discussed the importance of undergraduate research with legislators.

Hadeed's Honors research, which has a more behavioral slant than past student projects, is a continuation of the SOAR project she began with Dr. Fox last summer. It's the first time that many of the tests are being conducted in Moravian labs. "I wanted to gain research experience and thought this would be ideal," she said. "Working with Dr. Fox, I've been able to delve deeply into the research."

Creating Her Future

"Nicole has a curiosity of the natural world, and is willing to consider new approaches to addressing a scientific question," said Dr. Fox. "She takes on challenges in great stride. By contacting other neuroscientists across the country, who have developed these new behavior tests, she's learning that research does not take place in a vacuum."

The unanticipated loss of several of her rat subjects last summer was its own lesson. "Research is unpredictable—you don't always get the expected results. Sometimes you need to be creative to solve a problem," commented Hadeed.

Participating in hand-on research projects like these, and in the pre-med observer program convinced Hadeed that medicine was her calling. "I'm interested in many things, but I discovered how much I love science and especially biology. I realized how well-suited I am for medicine when I learned that doctors get to teach and be creative, too. And I like the idea that physicians never stop learning."

In the spring, Hadeed will present her research at other conferences, including the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience Undergraduate Research Conference. Dr. Fox also plans to write a paper about her work with Hadeed and other students for possible publication during her sabbatical in spring 2012.