Mentor Name:
Erin McGlade

Mentor Position:
Research Associate Professor




Project Description:

**This project is a part of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), which provides undergraduate students with an intensive 10-week research experience under the mentorship of a University of Utah faculty member. SPUR 2022 begins on May 25 and ends on August 4. If you are interested in this project, please review all program information on the SPUR site. If you wish to apply to this project, you must apply using the SPUR 2022 application.**

The Diagnostic Neuroimaging Lab is focused on improving understanding of the neurobiology of psychiatric symptoms, including aggression, suicide behaviors, depression, and anxiety. We use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine brain volume and connectivity of neural networks in individuals with and without psychiatric disorders. While our lab has numerous studies that the SPUR student would be exposed to, we would focus their efforts on two primary projects looking at aggression and suicide behavior in adolescents and adults. The rationale for these studies is based on data suggesting that rates of females dying by suicide are increasing over time, especially in female veterans. Prior research has identified numerous risk factors for suicide behavior but limited research has focused on females. We therefore examine suicide behavior in females and focus on specific subtypes of aggression (e.g., verbal, physical) as they relate to different brain regions and self-directed violence. Project 1 is a longitudinal study following youth and adolescent participants between the ages of 9 and 19 whereas Project 2 includes female veteran participants. Both projects include data collection and analysis of brain neuroimaging; aggression; suicide and self-directed violence behaviors; neurocognitive constructs such as attention and memory; physical health; mental health; and demographics. Identifying symptom and neurobiological correlates of suicide behavior in females compared to males will enable us to identify early predictors of self-directed violence and co-morbid psychiatric symptoms to improve both earlier intervention and treatment.

Opportunity Type:

This is a paid research position

Student Role:

A student would have ample opportunity to be engaged in every step of this research. Depending on the student’s interest and abilities, they could be involved in review of relevant literature, data collection, data analysis, and preparation/presentation of results. They could observe and participate in research subject screening, scheduling, and recruitment of participants. They may also observe and participate in study visits, including the following procedures and assessments: informed consent, MRI, cognitive testing, mental health evaluation, physical health questionnaires, aggression self-report, demographics, gender identity and sexual health self-report, parent assessments (for adolescent participants), and/or suicide behavior assessments. Students would also be given the opportunity to attend local and national calls focused on women’s health, adolescent behavior development, assessment measure selection, and logistics of a multi-site NIH-funded studies. Also depending on the student’s interest and abilities, they could be given access to already-collected data with the goal of analyzing and interpreting outcomes with faculty support. We would endeavor to offer the student a wide range of experiences to help them better understand what life in a “real” human subject research is like day to day.

Student Benefits:

We would offer the student a wide range of experiences to help them better understand what life in a “real” university human subject research lab is like day to day. It seems likely that many of the SPUR undergraduates would be thinking about future directions for their education and careers. We are excited to show them the daily routine and experiences in a lab focused on human clinical studies. This work would range from IRB applications to writing manuscripts for publication. Our lab includes approximately 10 study coordinators/research assistants, 2 full professors (PhD and MD/PhD), 3 postdoctoral fellows, 2 assistant professors, and an associate professor so there would be ample opportunity for the student to observe a variety of professionals with various degrees from the bachelor’s level to post-doctoral. The student would be able to talk with our staff and faculty members about their journeys to their position, the benefits and challenges in being a clinical researcher, and the specific projects in the lab. We each have research opportunities over a range of different stages from completing background reading to inform conceptualization of potential projects to active data collection to having complete data sets. These stages of work allow the student to see each step of research and learn many of the challenges and successes along the way. We would ensure that the student had ample opportunity to ask questions throughout their summer experience.

Project Duration:

35-40 hours per week on research and program-related activities, begins May 25, 2022, and ends August 4, 2022

Minimum Requirements:

Admission to the program is competitive. Applicants must meet all of the following criteria: 1) be a matriculated, degree-seeking undergraduate student in the Fall 2022 semester (beginning or continuing college career in Fall 2022 and not graduating before December 2022; concurrent enrollment while in high school does not meet this eligibility requirement). Applicants do not need to be a University of Utah student. 2) eligible to work in the United States: If you are a University of Utah Dreamer (with or without DACA), you are eligible to participate. U Dreamers with DACA will be hired and paid through U payroll. U Dreamers without DACA who graduated from a Utah high school will be compensated via a different mechanism. If you are a Dreamer from a different institution: If you have DACA, you are eligible to participate and will be hired and paid though U payroll. If you do not have DACA, you are able to participate and gain research experience, but we do not currently have a mechanism that allows us to compensate you. For more information, please contact Megan Shannahan at megan.shannahan@utah.edu or 801-581-2478. If you are an international student or scholar, you must either a) be a degree-seeking undergraduate student at the University of Utah, OR b) possess documentation that establishes your eligibility to work in the United States (if you hold US citizenship, it is likely you have these documents). 3) able to commit to approximately 35-40 hours per week of employment at the University of Utah for the entire duration of the program (May 25-August 4, 2022). 4) at least 18 years old by May 23, 2022 (required if you wish to use on-campus housing; preferred if you will not be using on-campus housing).