Simpson College was one of five colleges in Iowa selected to send a professor and an undergraduate student to conduct intensive research at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine this summer.
The FUTURE (Fostering Undergraduate Talent – Uniting Research and Education) in Biomedicine Program selected Justin Brown, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology and Emily Magers, a sophomore biology major to participate in the two-month research experience. Their research project investigated ways to prevent tolerance to transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), a non-invasive method used for pain relief.
“TENS is used pretty commonly for pain right now, often for muscular skeletal pain like back pain and osteoarthritis,” Brown said. “Research has shown that over time, this treatment that was very effective for pain at first becomes less and less effective. Our research is looking at different ways that TENS can be administered to see if we can make it more effective as a longer term treatment.”
Working with Dr. Kathleen Sluka, Ph.D., PT, Brown and Magers worked with healthy human subjects, who agreed to come in to the lab five days a week for 45 minutes at a time. While there, the research staff applies stimuli that cause pain and the subject’s pain threshold is measured. TENS is then applied and a second pain threshold is recorded to see if the application of TENS increased the threshold.
Brown said it has been a great experience for him and Magers on several levels. “It’s great for Emily because not only is it an amazing hands on experience, but she also gets to see what it’s like to do research on a full-time basis to help her decide her future career path. She is also meeting people and networking, which will be important when she applies to medical school or graduate schools.
“For me,” Brown continued, “I have received access to resources and training that I can bring back to Simpson and share with other professors and students. I also get to collaborate with the other program participants, compare teaching experiences and learn more about the graduate school and medical school admissions procedures so that I can better advise students.”
After a competitive application process, the FUTURE program provided Brown and Magers with a stipend for their two months in Iowa City in addition to lodging expense. When they return, the data analysis from their project will continue.
“This has been a very worthwhile experience and a great extension of the commitment Simpson has to fostering undergraduate research with its students,” Brown said.
Visit the FUTURE in Biomedicine website to learn more about the program.