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Rachel Bergstrom Receives National Science Foundation Award

Rachel Bergstrom

ROCHESTER, MN (April 3, 2007) – Rachel Bergstrom C’2004 has recently been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Award. This prestigious recognition and monetary award is given to approximately 1,000 recipients each year to support master’s and doctoral degree program research projects in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Bergstrom is in the Molecular Neuroscience program at Mayo Graduate School in Rochester, Minn. She began this doctoral program in June 2006 and is scheduled to complete it in 2011.

The NSF Awards are given for a diverse range of research projects that address fundamental questions in basic science, though not necessarily disease-specific research. Bergstrom’s project deals specifically with neurons (specialized, impulse-conducting cells in the nervous system), and IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1,) a hormone necessary for these cells to be healthy. Though this research deals mainly with a basic aspect of cell biology (signaling in neurons), Bergstrom said that it could potentially have implications for diseases such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in which neurons are directly affected in negative ways.

“Studying how IGF-1 trafficking and signaling works in neurons not only helps to understand what is going on in ALS, but it may open doors to a better understanding of how IGF-1 works in normal neurons and other cells in the body,” Bergstrom said.

The Fellowship itself is three years of support through tuition and a stipend. And while the awards are funding research that may have great impact on the scientific world, the program is aimed at expanding the field of scientists, in number and diversity, in the United States. Bergstrom noted, “The important part of this is that the application [for the fellowship] is used to demonstrate that I am able to think through a problem and develop ways to test my hypotheses. Additionally, the application for the program had a few personal essays that were intended to demonstrate my leadership abilities and my dedication to research as a ‘citizen scientist.’”

Bergstrom said she used various experiences while at North Park to complete these essays, including her trip to the international AIDS conference in Thailand (July 2004), work with the Student Association (Academixx and Education), and participation with the women’s Ultimate Frisbee team.

After North Park, Bergstrom spent 15 months as a technician in the lab of Adriana Ferreira at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Her experience in this lab provided her the opportunity to be the second author on a publication with another North Park graduate, Caryn Tournell C’2002; in addition, she is in the process of preparing more of her research from those months for publication.

Bergstrom is the daughter of Richard S’81 and Kandace Bergstrom of Northbrook, Ill.; both her parents are employed at the Covenant Retirement Village there. Her sister, Jessica, graduated from the University in 2002, and her brother, Carl, is currently a freshman.