Duquesne Chronic Pain Research Consortium Undergraduate Wins National Fellowship

A sophomore biology major at Duquesne University has won an American Physiological Society (APS) fellowship to continue her study of gender differences in chronic pain.

The elite Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship has been awarded to Abigail Cox, who started work after her freshman year in the laboratory of Dr. Benedict Kolber, assistant professor of biological sciences and the research and education coordinator for Duquesne's Chronic Pain Research Consortium. The consortium encourages researchers to discuss findings related to different aspects of chronic pain across biology, chemistry, neuroscience, pharmacy and other disciplines.

The APS selects up to only 24 students nationwide to participate in this summer program, which runs from May 23 to July 22.

"The fact that students in the Bayer School consistently receive such honors is a testimony to the students drive and proactive approach to learning, and to the faculty mentors dedication to educating our next generation of scientists," said Dr. Philip Reeder, dean of the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences.

Through the fellowship, Cox will continue her work at Duquesne on gender-related similarities and disparities in bladder pain. A chronic disorder that impacts the lives of about 1.3 million people, bladder pain has few effective treatment options.

Cox's work has built upon an understanding of the activation and deactivation of certain areas of the brain in conjunction with bladder pain. While women suffer from bladder pain syndrome twice as often as men, both sexes are susceptible to the devastating effects of this disease. The APS fellowship will allow Cox to explore whether changes in tissue morphology and protein expression are similar in both sexes as they suffer from this disorder.

"Abby is a curious and inquisitive young researcher. I anticipate that her summer research will drive the development of a new paradigm in how our lab thinks about bladder pain, and I hope that the opportunity will help build Abby's interest in basic biomedical research," said Kolber about the APS fellowship.

Besides providing a $4,000 stipend to continue her work, the fellowship will allow Cox to attend and present at the APS 2017 Experimental Biology Meeting in Chicago.

"I'm so excited about that; I've never gone to a national conference before," said Cox, of Sodus, a town outside Rochester, N.Y.

"I really enjoy researching in such a prevalent field," Cox said. "While my efforts benefit me academically, I hope that they can benefit the lives of patients."

Cox is the second Duquesne student in four years to win an APS undergraduate fellowship. Both have worked in Kolber's lab.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.