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King University News :: King Neuroscience Department Represented at 11th International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease

Florence, ITALY - This spring, two King University seniors and one staff member presented three posters at the 11th International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, AD/PD™ 2013.  The conference was held in Florence, Italy March 6-10, 2013.  AD/PD™ 2013 is a landmark event bringing together over 3,000, neuroscientists, pharmacologists, and clinicians to study the hot topics, similarities and differences, and scientific breakthroughs associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and related neurological disorders. 

Neurodegenerative diseases are a serious health challenge facing all societies with aging demographics.  AD/PD™ is now the world’s foremost platform devoted to promoting the latest advances in neurodegenerative disease research and new therapies.  

King presenters included Rekek Negga, lab manager for the King’s Neurotoxicology Research Lab; Isaac Snapp, who has since graduated from King magna cum laude with a double major in Biology and Mathematics and a minor in Chemistry as well as with honors in Independent Study in Biology; and Kenneth McVey, who has since graduated from King with his bachelor’s in Neuroscience with a minor in Chemistry.  Negga is also a King alumna having graduated in 2009 with her Bachelor of Science in General Biology; and has been accepted to the Master of Science in Animal Science at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.

“Having their posters accepted for the 11th International Conference on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease was a tremendous opportunity for the students to present the research they conducted in my lab,” said Dr. Vanessa Fitsanakis, associate professor and chair of King’s Biology Department.  “Often students think that because King is a small university their research experience may not be on par with that of students from larger institutions.  Attending and presenting at such meetings lets them see that the work they do in my lab is acknowledged by the broader scientific community as important and contributing to what we know about neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.”

Negga, Snapp, and McVey were in the company of scientists at the top of their field including Plenary Speaker and Nobel Laureate Ada E. Yonath who presented her findings on Ribosomes Implications in Modern Therapeutics: From Antibiotics to Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease.

“With hopes of becoming a physician and having a strong interest in clinical medicine, I really enjoyed participating in a clinical meeting versus one that is research based,” said McVey.  “It was neat being exposed to the cutting edge treatments and ways in which patients with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease are diagnosed.  AD is one of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S., and the numbers of diagnosed cases are only climbing. Alzheimer's is a disease that not only affects the patient, but places hardships upon caregivers as well.  The information I learned by attending the meeting will help me increase the quality of life of my future patients and their caregivers.”  McVey just completed his Advanced EMT certification, and is currently working with a home health care company to assess patients' needs.  He also volunteers with the Lebanon Life Saving Crew.

“The fact that [the meeting] was heavily clinically influenced really interested me since I had plans to pursue a master’s in Physician Assistant Studies at the time of the meeting.  Actually, I am now currently in enrolled in the PA program at Medical University of South Carolina,” commented Snapp.  “The research was, in my opinion, much more healthcare related.  Much of a focus was placed on things such as how to treat, how to diagnosis, and how to prevent.  Previous meetings we attended focused less on how to “fix the disease,” and more heavily on why is it happening in the first place.” 

During the AD/PD™ 2013, presentations included more than 1,900 abstracts - three of which were from King; more than 374 talks and 1,500 posters from established researchers and young upcoming talents representing both clinical investigators and basic scientists.  There were also approximately 3,000 participants from over 67 countries.

Presenting research as an undergraduate at a meeting of the caliber of AD/PD™ 2013 is not a common occurrence.  When asked what advice they might have for future King undergraduate researchers, McVey said, “A lot of times, the work load in the lab can seem very overwhelming and can be very demanding.  I would tell students to keep the idea of presenting their data in mind and use it as motivation.  Presenting data to scientist from all over the world is such a rewarding experience.  It shows you that the work being conducted at King really does mean something.”

Snapp added, “Don’t let it intimidate you.  It’s a great chance to talk about the research on which you’ve been working.  I personally thought it was going to be question after question, and I wasn’t going to know any of the answers.  But just remember, it’s your research and nobody is going to know it better than you.  Use it as an opportunity to tell others what you’ve been putting a lot of work into, discuss better ways to go about things, and even talk about different interpretations of your data.  My biggest suggestion is relax and have fun with it.  Remember, you’re doing something few undergraduates get a chance to do.”

For more information on King University’s Neuroscience program, contact Dr. Vanessa Fitsanakis at 423.652.6322, vafitsan@king.edu, or visit http://artsandsciences.king.edu/neuroscience/

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