Allison Birnschein ’17 Conducts Dementia Research at University of Iowa

Posted on October 8th, 2015 by

Allison Birnshein '17 Presents Summer Research on Dementia

Allison Birnshein ’17 Presents Summer Research on Dementia


Full of opportunities to develop my research skills, the ten weeks I spent at the University of Iowa this past summer with professional researchers, clinicians, medical students, graduate students, and undergraduate students were invaluable to say the least. Enrolled in an interdisciplinary undergraduate research program, I was matched with mentor, Dr. Natalie Denburg, a neuropsychologist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. My primary role as her research assistant centered on investigating a question of comparison for two similar types of dementia, previously raised in both scholarly literature and clinical practice.

Initially, I spent a lot of time independently reviewing the current literature in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of the connections and distinctions between the two forms of dementia we were concerned with. During this process, I learned how to discover relevant articles using online databases, efficiently review an article, and think critically about the expressed main conclusions. As I collected data, I was instructed to read patient charts and analyze patient performance based on the scores of several neuropsychological assessments. This part of the process clearly exemplified how a neuropsychological theory is applied through clinical assessment, effectively raising further questions for future research.

As the research project came together, I was able to practice my academic writing skills as I created several drafts of a manuscript including introduction, methods, and results sections. I also constructed a PowerPoint presentation to share at a weekly neuropsychology lab meeting where I received critical feedback from other summer research students, graduate students, lab technicians, post-graduates, and neuropsychologists. Wrapping up the summer program, I presented a poster at the 2015 Summer Undergraduate Research Conference.

In addition to my primary project, I took advantage of many opportunities to observe and engage with other research projects and clinical cases. Especially exciting were my experiences assisting a graduate student in participant recruitment and screening, participating in several research studies in related labs, attending specialized biomedical seminars and weekly neurology grand round seminars, and observing several clinical cases in both the neuropsychology and neurology clinics of the UIHC throughout the course of the summer. I also communicated with several graduate students who offered insight and advice regarding the graduate school application process and their overall experiences as students. My appreciation for the intersecting fields of psychology and neuroscience, my aspiration for pursuing graduate school and my goal of eventually a career in clinical psychology were strengthened as I was immersed into the flourishing academic atmosphere at the University of Iowa. This summer experience was an opportunity for me to think critically, ask questions, take initiative in a full research process, and ultimately develop my academic reading, writing, and presenting skills.

Submitted by Allison Birnschein ’17


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