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How Travel Awards Benefit Our Students

The post below is shared by senior psychology major Paris Bean ’20 describing a conference she attended with support through the Honors Travel Fund.

Attending the National Neurotrauma Society annual conference was an amazing experience. I went into the conference thinking I was fairly knowledgeable in the field of neurotrauma, having been a part of spinal cord and brain injury research since my freshman year. However, what I quickly came to find out was that there are so many discoveries being made that could improve the lives of those who suffer from spinal cord or brain injury.

At the conference, I not only had the chance to attend talks, lunch presentations, and poster sessions, but I was able to present my own research. The research I presented was data collected as part of my Undergraduate Research Scholars project, which I completed this year in the lab of Dr. Jim Grau. Our lab traditionally studies how pain induces hemorrhage and impairs long term recovery after spinal cord injury. My thesis project took these ideas and expanded them to traumatic brain injury. This work is important because individuals who sustain these neurological traumas often have additional injuries (polytrauma) that serve as a source of pain input. Discovering just how detrimental this pain input can be, and the mechanism that underlies this phenomenon can help us in paving the way for new treatments for these polytrauma patients.

                                                                                                            Paris Bean ’20 presents her research at the 2019 National Neurotrauma Society conference

Many of the talks I attended not only showed me what others were doing in the field but gave me new insight into my own research. I was able to discuss various laboratory techniques and learn about all of the new avenues I could take my own research in. I came back from the conference eager to get back into the lab and apply my new knowledge. I also had the chance to hear from the top leaders in the field, giving me an experience I would not be able to have anywhere else. I also had the chance to interact with physicians who are not only conducting their own research but also applying it in the clinical world. These physicians are able to recognize the gaps we currently have in the treatment of neurotrauma, which the gaps are many. As a prospective physician currently applying to medical school, it was such a unique opportunity to learn from these individuals and understand what I might be dealing with in my future career. One of the most unique parts of the conference is “patient stories”. This panel was several individuals suffering from either a spinal cord or brain injury, and they shared how our work is impacting them. This gave me a new perspective on how important it really is to continue working towards new discoveries.

To learn more about the Honors Travel Fund, visit