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DU Student Presents at Neuroscience Conference

Monday, November 6, 2017

Senior Leticia Perez gave Dominican University something to be proud of when she presented at the annual Society for Neuroscience Meeting on November 9 in Washington, DC.

Leticia has been working in the neuroscience lab with Dr. Bob Calin-Jageman for the past two summers and is the recipient of the ExcEL Scholarship. Earlier this year, she submitted an abstract to present the research she has been working on at the Neuroscience Meeting and not only was it accepted; it was selected for a talk.

The Neuroscience Meeting draws 30,000 people and the vast majority give just a poster but our Dominican Star went above and beyond. 

"In the 10 years Irina and I have been submitting work from our lab, this is the first time we've had a presentation lifted up like this," Dr. Calin-Jageman said.

Leticia presented the work she's been doing in the lab examining how forgetting occurs in the brain.  She explained why this is an important topic to study, how she used sea slugs as a simple animal for studying forgetting and then went through her data showing that even when a memory seems 'forgotten'—there are pieces that may still be left.  Specifically, she's found that even after forgetting the slugs can re-learn the memory more rapidly and their brains are not exactly the same as there are some genes that stay activated even when the memory seems to be gone.

Leticia was pleased with how the presentation went despite being a little nervous prior to the big day.

"Overall, I think it went better than I expected," Perez said. "When preparing for the talk I was concerned that I would go over the time limit, that I would not know how to answer difficult questions, or that presenting to a large audience would make me stumble while presenting. However, due to a lot of practice and preparation, during the actual presentation I was able to stay close to the time limit, answer questions without much difficulty, and stay calm while presenting without concerning myself with the size of the audience."

She has dedicated a lot of time and effort into her research and was happy to be able to share her findings with others.

"I am really happy and grateful that I was given the opportunity to present my research at a national conference," Perez said. "I am glad that the presentation went really well, and even though it did take a lot of work and time in the lab to be able to get the results of this research, that hard work paid off and I was able to share that work with the larger neuroscience community. 

Her faculty mentors Dr. Bob and Irina Calin-Jageman traveled to the conference as well to support Leticia and all her hard work.

"I am so impressed and proud," Dr. Calin-Jageman said. "Leticia has worked really hard in the lab and has developed as a student, scientist, scholar and as a person. She now has 2 papers published from her work and now this talk—it's really an impressive set of achievements. The audience at her talk was mostly experts in learning and memory. Not only did Leticia take some interesting questions, but a number of researchers in the room congratulated her on such an interesting and strong presentation."

Leticia also has a paper on the research coming out in the next few weeks in Learning and Memory. It's her second paper, the first of hers for her to be first-author on. She has also presented at The Molecular and Cellular Cognition Poster Session and Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience Poster Session and Social prior to this big event.

After graduation, she hopes to attend veterinary school to pursue her career goal of becoming a veterinarian.