SPURA Students Present Posters at CBBRe Neurobehavioral Research Symposium

Photo of SPURA student at research poster symposium. Seven students in USD's SPURA program presented research posters at the CBBRe Neurobehavioral Research Symposium.

VERMILLION, S.D. – Seven students in the University of South Dakota’s Summer Program for Undergraduate Research in Addiction (SPURA) wrapped up their research with a poster presentation at the Center for Brain and Behavior Research’s (CBBRe) Neurobehavioral Research Symposium.

First place in the undergraduate division poster contest went to Megan Jorgensen, a medical biology major, presenting "The Role of Endocannabinoid Signaling in Producing Injury-Induced Sensitization." Second place went to Joshua McWhirt, a biology major, presenting "Stress Induced Changes in Hippocampal Gene Expression."

“Every year we’ve had fantastic students in the SPURA program and this year’s group was no exception. They worked hard all summer, were engaged in their projects, and were great ambassadors at USD. Every one of our invited symposium speakers was impressed by the quality of the students in this program,” said Brian Burrell, associate director of CBBRe.

CBBRe hosts the SPURA program, which is a multi-disciplinary summer research program that gives USD undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct mentored, hypothesis-driven research in fields related to substance use and abuse and mental health issues. The laboratories that participate in the program incorporate a wide range of experimental methods including cognitive, behavioral, neuropharmacological, systems, electrophysiological, brain imaging, and molecular approaches. SPURA hosted weekly seminars throughout the summer on topics pertaining to research in addiction and related mental health issues, as well as opportunities for professional development. Lunches were also provided for all USD undergraduate researchers, sponsored by the South Dakota Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (SD BRIN).

The symposium also hosted a graduate, postdoctoral and staff research poster division. First place went to Kelene Fercho from the Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences, presenting "Addition of Pupil Diameter Measurements Increases Brain Computer Interface Performance." Second place went to Hanming Zhang, also from Basic Biomedical Sciences, presenting "Inhibition of Phosphodiesterase 1 Confers Striking Therapeutic Benefit to HFpEF in Mice.”


USD's Sanford School of Medicine is nationally known for excellence. With its award-winning curriculum, the school prepares medical students to practice in all fields of medicine and is particularly recognized and ranked for its reputation in family medicine and rural medicine. In addition to the M.D., it offers graduate degrees in basic biomedical science, sustains a vibrant and forward-looking research agenda, and is home to the interdisciplinary Center for Brain and Behavioral Research.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News