ICRU Research Ambassador Alex Einfeldt shows off her award-winning poster entitled, “Stimulation Enhances Limb Activity and Promotes Rapid Motor Learning in the Neonatal Rat”, a project investigating how additional motor experience leads to faster learning shortly after birth.
UI student wins Distinguished Poster Award for research in Developmental Psychology
When UI student Alex Einfeldt first approached her Elementary Psychology Professor looking for additional research opportunities, she had no idea that the area of motor learning and development would give her the chance to travel to Washington D.C. to present her work.
After becoming involved in the Iowa Biosciences Advantage, a pre-Ph.D. program for underrepresented students interested in the biosciences, Alex realized during her first year on campus that undergraduate research was still fairly unknown concept to many of her peers.
“A common misconception about research often brings to mind natural scientists in white lab coats who spend all day pipetting fluids from one tube to another,” says Alex, who is now a junior, “however, research is really about investigation of any topic, even in music, arts, and social sciences.”
After almost two years of experience gained in Dr. Scott Robinson’s laboratory, which focuses on the role of experience in early motor learning, Alex has become fascinated by her topic of research.
She states, “We are discovering more and more that learning takes place at a very early age, perhaps even earlier than the time of birth. The more we add to this body of knowledge, the more we can understand how to treat and prevent disorders such as cerebral palsy and other motor disabilities.”
The chance to present her work off-campus came in November 2008 when Alex traveled to the 41st Annual Meeting of the International Society of Developmental Psychobiology in Washington D.C.
“I’ve learned so much about my topic simply from teaching it to my colleagues and peers,” Alex says, “As much as I might have thought I understood the relevance of my project, the real learning happened when I was asked questions to which I did not know all the answers.”
Alex has also had the opportunity present her work on campus this past April at the Spring Undergraduate Research Festival. There, she was awarded the Distinguished Poster Presentation Award in the Social Sciences, presented by the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates (ICRU) for exceptional presentation of a research poster.
On top of her hours spent in the laboratory conducting research during the academic and summer months, Alex is also a member of the ICRU Research Ambassadors, a group of students who are dedicated to spreading the word about undergraduate research opportunities on campus and encouraging other undergraduates’ involvement in laboratories and creative projects in every academic department.
Alex is also an active member of the University’s Honors Program where she is an Honors Peer Advisor and Summer Orientation Guide. The Psychology major and Religious Studies minor hopes to continue pursuing research throughout her graduate school years, and ultimately become an instructor at the college level.
“I am so grateful for the life experience and career preparation that my undergraduate research involvement has provided,” she states. “I encourage each and every undergraduate student to consider getting involved in research in their area of interest. Whether you have a chosen career goal or are still exploring your interests, the opportunity to produce original knowledge in a given field is an amazing experience than will only enhance your time in college.”