Student presents at prestigious seminar

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Natasha Flesher  had the chance to present her research on the hippocampus of homing pigeons.

Megan Wimsatt and Megan Wimsatt

The 31st annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research was held from April 6 to 8 at the University of Memphis. The conference accepted all forms and topics for undergraduate research.

Neuroscience major Natasha Flesher presented her research at the NCUR. Flesher was introduced to the conference through her professor, Dr. Brown.

“I hadn’t really heard of it before, but he had said that it was a really great conference to get experience at and to learn about research that’s happening all around the United States, which at BG, we have (a) very small field of research within each field. So it’s… provided a way wider variety of things that were going on,” Flesher said.

The NCUR has a very slim acceptance rate, with around 30 percent of applicants allowed to speak at the conference.

“I was really, really excited, and I felt honored because not many people from Bowling Green normally even apply. Very, very few make it in, and since we do have a smaller scale research department within the neuroscience and psychology department here, I felt like I could actually offer something to the greater realm of the science world,” Flesher said.

Flesher had a few reasons for applying for the NCUR in the first place. One reason was to get more experience with public speaking.

“If I simplify it down more for other majors… it’ll make me a better speaker in general,” she said. “I’ll get to share what I’m doing in my very small section of research with a lot of other people who… might find it very helpful for whatever research they are doing,” she said.

Flesher’s research involved looking at the hippocampus of old and young homing pigeons to see which would have more dying, or apoptotic, cells. She related it to Alzheimer’s disease, as there are many dying cells in the hippocampus of the disease’s patients.

“For birds, you normally don’t hear (about) birds (being) used as a human model; you hear about rats,” she siad. “In my lab, we’re trying to get more of a clear, concrete picture of if we can use pigeons as another model for the human. Anything in the human body… we were looking at more of the mechanism of it rather than Alzheimer’s symptoms,” Flesher said. Describing the process, she added, “It was just a simple project between looking at the old and young birds, like the differences between apoptotic cells.”

Flesher got funding for her research through the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship. She conducted her research from April to September.

“It was definitely a complicated process because I hadn’t had much research before and I only just switched into my major of neuroscience… It was my first big research project that I was able to partake in, so my professors and graduate students who helped me out, they really had to give me a lot of different advice that would help me through the entire process,” Flesher said.

Flesher switched from an inclusive early childhood education major to a neuroscience major to offer something different to the community, as well as to challenge herself.

“I just did a lot of heavy research into the field of neuroscience, and I just got more and more excited so I figured that I would go ahead and switch and see if it was right,” she said. “Long story short, I definitely needed to find something that was going to help me maintain my intellectual abilities throughout my whole life if I could,” she said.

The 2018 NCUR will be held at the University of Central Oklahoma from April 4 to 7.