Graduate student awarded predoctoral fellowship by American Epilepsy Society

Author: Iqbal Pittalwala
July 13, 2020

Susan Nguyen, a graduate student at UC Riverside, has been awarded a predoctoral fellowship by the American Epilepsy Society. The one-year fellowship, which began July 1, will support part of Nguyen’s thesis work.

“I will be looking at how an innate immune receptor present in the brain changes after brain injury and its role in the development of posttraumatic epilepsy and the potential behavioral effects it may have on pattern separation,” Nguyen said. 

Nguyen said she is excited the $30,000 fellowship will provide her with funding to perform experiments and allow her to travel to national and international conferences to present her findings and collaborate with the scientific community.

“Susan is a remarkably organized, skilled, and conscientious graduate student with a unique perspective gained from experience as an occupational therapist for brain-injured patients,” said Viji Santhakumar, an associate professor of molecular, cell and systems biology, in whose lab Nguyen works. “Susan has shown excellent initiative in mastering complex electrophysiological and surgical techniques and implementing new molecular tools to undertake her planned studies examining mechanisms of neurological deficits after brain injury. Her passion for improving patient outcomes coupled with her intellectual curiosity and perseverance will continue to be great assets to the project and her career.”

Nguyen joined the UCR Neuroscience Graduate Program in 2017. She previously worked as an occupational therapist for a few years, attending to patients with brain injuries. 

“I saw firsthand how trauma can have huge consequences in a person's quality of life, both physically and cognitively,” she said. “My hope is that this research will contribute toward understanding the mechanism of how injury changes the brain and potentially lead to better targeted therapies for treatment to prevent the onset of posttraumatic epilepsy or mitigate cognitive impairments.”

Nguyen came to UCR with a Eugene Cota Robles Award and received a Graduate Research Mentorship Program Fellowship for a quarter in 2019.  She expects to graduate from UCR with her doctoral degree by the end of 2022.