Mentor: Samira Moorjani, Physiology and Biophysics
Current research project: Strengthening Motor Pathways in Intact Non-Human Primates and Spinal Cord-Injured Rats; Evaluating Engagement with a Digital Health Psychological Intervention for Youth with Chronic Pain
Shannon is a senior at UW working towards a BS in Neuroscience with College Honors. For the past three years, she has been working in the Moorjani Lab, investigating strategies to produce strengthening of motor pathways in healthy monkeys and spinal cord-injured rats. She also recently joined the Palermo Lab, where she has been optimizing a digital health psychological intervention for pediatric chronic pain. Outside the lab, Shannon is the Communications Intern for the Honors Program and writes articles on COVID-19 news for The Daily. After graduating, she plans to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience or Clinical Psychology. In her spare time, she enjoys birding, photography, and reading.
Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
The Moorjani Lab develops innovative strategies to promote motor plasticity and repair in animal models. Evoked potentials (EPs), which represent electrical responses in the nervous system, are an important part of our work, as we use them to quantify the strength of neuronal connections. Last year, I assessed how physical rehabilitation and neuromodulator delivery affect corticospinal connections in spinal cord-injured rats by recording and analyzing EP amplitudes. This year, I am examining the impacts of activity-dependent stimulation and neuromodulator delivery on the stability of corticocortical EPs in healthy monkeys. My projects will help us better understand the damaged central nervous system and inform future rehabilitation strategies. The Palermo Lab focuses on managing and preventing the development of chronic pain in children and adolescents. Given poor access to pediatric pain care, psychological treatments are more accessible through digital health interventions. One such intervention that our lab created is Web-based Management of Adolescent Pain (WebMAP), a mobile app that helps teens develop chronic pain management strategies. My research aims to evaluate users’ engagement, perception, and usage of WebMAP through a secondary data analysis. We hope to incorporate our findings as we develop the next release of WebMAP.
When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved in the Neurobiology Club Mentorship Program during my freshman year. My mentor knew I was seeking research opportunities at the time, so he encouraged me to apply to the lab he was working at. I got the position, and I have been working at the Moorjani Lab ever since. Then, as I entered my senior year, I joined the Palermo Lab as a part of the Scan Design Innovations in Pain Research Summer Program. Although my interest in research stemmed from the desire to apply what I was learning in my coursework, I have gained various other skills as a researcher, including animal handling, qualitative coding, and science communication.
What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
Although it may be tempting to accept the first research opportunity you hear back from, your work will be much more rewarding if you get involved in a field you are genuinely passionate about. It’s also okay if you have no prior experience in your field of interest—I definitely didn’t have any when I joined my labs, but by asking questions and broadening my investigative mindset, my knowledge of clinical psychology and neuroscience has expanded immensely. If you ever need help navigating potential research projects, please feel free to reach out to me or our wonderful URP staff!