Willamette professor and undergraduates to work at prestigious research facility

Willamette biology professor Emma Coddington was awarded $47,000 to perform neuroscience research at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

As part of the university's Science Collaborative Research Program, Coddington, will be joined by two undergraduate students, Erin McEvoy from Portland, Ore., and Sarah Sonnenfeld from Bainbridge Island, Wash.

In June, all three will join Heather Eisthen from Michigan State University to research the interaction among hormones, neurons and behavior in a species of newt. Students will use electrophysiology and confocal microscopy to determine the mechanism by which stress affects newts' neural activity.

Because newt brains use the same chemicals and pathways as ours, these research findings may help shine a light on how human brains make fast, subconscious decisions under stress. McEvoy and Sonnenfeld will present their findings at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

By pairing undergraduates with tenure-track faculty, the Science Collaborative Research Program provides the students with research experience typically reserved for graduate students. Less than two dozen undergraduates nationwide will have the opportunity to perform research at the Marine Biological Laboratory this summer.

"The experience is quite special," said Coddington, who is a first-year professor at Willamette. "This is the laboratory where Hodgkin and Huxley discovered how neurons conduct electricity. It is a completely immersive, potentially life-changing opportunity."

The Marine Biological Laboratory is a premier research facility with more than 50 associated Nobel Prize-winning scientists.