Student conducts high-level brain research in Australia
by MaryAlice Bitts
September 15, 2010
In between her courses at Queensland Brain Institute and her research at the Centre for Advanced Imaging, Rosemarie Healy ’11 managed time to take in some of Australia’s notable sights.
A semester abroad blossomed into an exciting international research opportunity when Rosemarie Healy ’11 seized a chance to research dementia and epilepsy at Australia’s Centre for Advanced Imaging (CAI).
Opened in 2008, the center brings together experts in the sciences, engineering and computer science for collaborative medical-treatment research. It houses the first combined magnetic resonance imaging-positron emission tomography (MRI-PET) scanner installed in Australia.
The chance to work at this cutting-edge, interdisciplinary center presented an excellent opportunity for Healy, a neuroscience major who hopes to someday help develop new ways to treat and prevent neurological disorders.
A league of her own
Healy’s story began last spring, when she entered a study-abroad program at Australia’s Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland. While there, she learned about an upcoming research opportunity at CAI and applied to Dickinson’s Office of Global Education for permission to extend her stay in Australia.
That permission was granted. Soon, Healy was accepted to work on two CAI research projects. She was the only undergraduate researcher on her team.
Mapping future treatments
Working with the Australian Mouse Brain Mapping Consortium, Healy researched the effects of aging on the brain by mapping images of brain segments of nine adult wild mice. She also investigated the differences between the MRI images of a normal mouse brain and those of a mouse with epilepsy.
Because she attended the center’s regular project-update meetings, she also learned about developments in other research projects.
According to David Reutens, an international-imaging expert who directs the CAI and supervised Healy’s work, the team’s only undergraduate researcher was a valuable contributor. “[As a result of] her work, we are able to further develop our methodology and imaging analysis techniques,” he said.
Healy is one of many Dickinson science majors who have taken upper-level courses in their major—and have experienced cutting-edge learning opportunities—while studying abroad. But her initiative and industriousness is noteworthy, said Tony Pires, associate professor of biology and chair of the neuroscience program.
“She took her hard-won rigorous background from Dickinson and used it creatively, independently and proactively to grow as a student and as a scientist,” Pires said, adding that he looks forward to watching her academic career progress.
For her part, Healy is grateful for the experience and eager to apply what she learned to her work at Dickinson and beyond. “The research was very interesting, and the researchers were welcoming and helpful,” said Healy. “I have a better grasp of how to [conduct research] and of all the paperwork and problems involved with it. … It was a great opportunity.”