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Emily Kluger

Muhlenberg College Class of 2004
Majors: Biology/Economics
Graduated with highest honors in Biology
Thesis advisor at Muhlenberg: Richard Niesenbaum
Thesis title: “Waging ecological warfare: The chemical weaponry of Lindera benzoin and its impact on its enemy Epimecis hortaria”

Current position: Graduate student
Institution: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Currently at: The Organization for Tropical Studies in Palo Verde, Costa Rica
Fields of study: Entomology and Ecology
Awards: Benjamin-Cummings Biology Prize, Young Botanist Award
Current thesis work: Tritrophic Interactions

Inspired one day, Emily Kluger stood up and announced to the 160 students in her Principles of Biology I class, “I want to be a botanist!” She started conducting research in Niesenbaum’s laboratory that spring, and remained there as a research student for her entire college career. Kluger’s research drove the direction of the Niesenbaum lab towards working on the chemical and ecological factors that influence variation in insect consumption of the spicebush plant. According to Niesenbaum, “Emily transformed from student to collaborator during her years at Muhlenberg, and this collaboration was the basis of the work that led to the $1.05 million National Science Foundation grant recently awarded to me and my colleagues.” Kluger dedicated herself to large-scale field and laboratory experiments that resulted in four presentations at national conferences, and two professional publications in scientific journals. At these conferences, she engaged leaders in the study of plant-insect interactions with challenging dialogue and engaging conversation. Seen by many as a future star in ecology, it is no surprise that Kluger ended up in one of the top laboratories in ecological entomology for graduate school. While at Muhlenberg, Emily studied in Costa Rica with Niesenbaum and Dr. Tammy Lewis, and her passion for research in the tropics remains: she currently is in Costa Rica with The Organizations for Tropical Studies.

 

by Jennifer Pelton ‘05

The faculty recently approved a bachelor of science in neuroscience, the study of the neural underpinnings of the mind and behavior, thus making it the newest science major at Muhlenberg College and the first new major at the College since the addition of dance in 1999. The program, which is directed by Dr. Jeremy Teissere, officially began in the spring of 2004. Muhlenberg is the fourth Lehigh Valley institution to offer a major in neuroscience after Lehigh University, Lafayette College and Cedar Crest College.

This interdisciplinary major, which combines coursework from psychology, philosophy, biochemistry, computer science, biology and the new neuroscience department, reflects the College’s commitment to a liberal arts education and an increasing student interest in neuroscience. There are 11 different faculty members who aid in the teaching of this program because, as Teissere points out, “A study of the brain can’t just include the natural sciences, but also those fields that ask larger questions about the meanings of minds and brains.”

The neuroscience program requires four core neuroscience classes, as well as eight cognate courses in science and three electives for a total of 15 major courses. A new introductory course, Mind and Brain, has been added to the existing neuroscience curriculum. “This course is really my baby,” says Teissere. “I wanted a course where my students and I could look broadly at the impact of neuroscience on our cultural understandings of the self. We use robots, dream journals, sheep brain dissections, language games…anything to engage our self-awareness of the self. It’s my hope that this course will catalyze connections between biology, psychology, philosophy and the arts.”

Neuroscience majors are also required to undergo foundational training in the field through the completion of Principles of Biology, Chemistry, Calculus, Introduction to Psychology and Philosophy of Mind.

The neuroscience curriculum, like other science curricula at the College, allows students to learn by doing; work is very “hands-on.” Students actively participate in course laboratories and learn to work with research tools, allowing them to see how the brain works at molecular, cellular, and behavioral levels. Many students even elect to carry out a research collaboration of their own design in the laboratory of a faculty member. Recently, the College received a generous donation from the Davenport Foundation to outfit an entire teaching laboratory in neurobiology. “We are just beginning to set up the equipment – the students are really excited. We’ve purchased entire workstations of amplifiers, computers, and electrodes to be able to record the properties of neurons in vivo,” Teissere said. Using this state-of-the-art laboratory, students will monitor the physiological properties of animal nervous systems and define the functional properties of specific neurotransmitter receptors. Students will have full access to all laboratory equipment in specific courses and for the use of independent research when the newly renovated Shankweiler Science Building opens in 2006.

Students interested in neuroscience often choose to continue graduate study in the field, or often go on to study medicine or clinical psychology. Given the broad curriculum and the many opportunities for faculty-student research collaborations, neuroscience majors are well-trained in research methods, making them especially prepared for careers in academia, industry or the clinic. Since the program is designed to highlight interconnections between the humanities, social sciences and the natural sciences, students leave Muhlenberg with a rare exposure to both breadth and depth in neuroscience.

The new neuroscience program is yet another testament to interdisciplinary studies and the liberal arts philosophy at the College.

 

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