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Engineering program leads to ‘life-changing experience’

April 1, 2009

Liliana Rincon, a Ph.D. student in bioengineering at Arizona State University, is one of only 12 students from around the world admitted to this year’s prestigious Neurobiology Summer Course at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.

The lab in Massachusetts is one of most prominent international science facilities for research and education in biology, biomedicine and ecology.

Rincon will join other students in the lab’s intensive nine-week course in cellular neuroscience, taught by leaders in neurophysiology, medical imaging and molecular neuroscience.

Rincon gained research experience that helped her qualify for the Woods Hole course though the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative, a program in the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

It’s one of the few university programs in the country that enables undergraduates to become involved in substantive engineering research.

“I gained a deeper knowledge and appreciation for research [through FURI],” Rincon said. “The program helped me get into graduate school, earn fellowships and get accepted in the summer course at Woods Hole.”

The summer program will provide her knowledge she will use to complete her Ph.D. research and become a better researcher.

“I’ll be meeting leading experts in neurobiology and working in a state-of-the-art facility,” Rincon said. “I expect this to be a life-changing experience.”

Getting chosen for the Woods Hole program is “recognition that is held high esteem by virtually everyone in the neuroscience community,” said Jerry Coursen, associate chair of ASU’s Harrington Department of Bioengineering.

After emigrating from Colombia. Rincon earned a bachelor of science degree from ASU in bioengineering and a bachelor of arts in psychology. She is the first recipient of the Harrington Graduate Fellowship and has earned support from the National Science Foundation through its Bridge to the Doctorate Graduate Fellowship program.

“I watched Liliana transform from an ordinary student into someone extraordinary when we talked about the nervous system in the undergraduate physiology course I teach,” Coursen recalled. “This interest led to her exploring FURI opportunities in the neural engineering laboratory of professor Steve Tillery. I’m proud of her and of the opportunities ASU undergraduate programs like FURI provide.”

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