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Thiel Forum Covered Rats Research and Women’s Bike Trip

By Rahat Hossen

The Thiel Forum on February 15 included presentations on rats being exposed to nicotine and a Thiel-sponsored long-distance women’s bike ride last summer.

The first presenters were Dr. Greg Butcher, neuroscience department chair, and Dr. Laura Pickens, psychology department chair, about results of their research project during the summers of 2016 and 2017. They conducted the Greenville Neuromodulation Center-funded research, with the help of Thiel students, at GNC’s research institute.

The research was about the cognitive, behavioral and consequences of adolescent nicotine exposures on adult rats. Their research started in fall 2015 with two Thiel students, Samantha Deems and Nick McNutt.

Pickens explained that rats were required to engage in spatial learning by swimming in a water tank. The researchers then waited a number of days to find out what the rats remembered from the water tank and also examined the rats’ brains. Their results showed no nicotine effects on memory, Pickens said, but she said they gathered a lot of other data on the rats’ behavior.

The research resulted in Thiel students presenting research in several venues, and the research program is continuing. Thiel College won a grant to borrow necessary equipment for two years, Butcher said, even though Thiel was not successful in its National Science Foundation grant applications.

Then business professor Karen A. Shaffer and Thiel student Jessica Orczeck spoke about Thiel’s first annual women’s bike trip. Led by Shaffer, six riders traveled approximately 100 miles down the greater Allegheny passage trail from Connellsville, Pennsylvania, to Cumberland, Maryland in June 2017. They were accompanied by Martin Black, the associate academic dean for career services, who previously had led Thiel biking trips.

She said their theme was “we learn by playing,” especially about leadership outside of the classroom. Shaffer said, “From my perspective I was just lucky enough to tag along and be somewhat useful with the students.” At the end of their journey, she said, they felt pleased, special and positive. No one was injured and or in any danger on the trip, and Shaffer said the weather was perfect for biking. They are thinking have another a little short trail in Ohio in May 2018, Orczeck said.

The Thiel Forum was chaired by moderated by English Professor Mary Theresa Hall, former associate academic dean and long-time organizer of the Forums.

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