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Verne M. Willaman Gateway to the Sciences.

Laurel Seemiller awarded NIH Kirschstein-NRSA postdoctoral fellowship

The fellowship will support Seemiller’s research into sex differences in neuronal signaling and exploratory behavior after adolescent binge drinking in mice
11 March 2024
Laurel Seemiller

Laurel Seemiller, a postdoctoral scholar in biology, has been awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). The purpose of the Kirschstein-NRSA postdoctoral fellowship is to enhance the research training of promising postdoctoral candidates who have the potential to become productive, independent investigators in scientific health-related research fields relevant to the missions of the participating NIH Institutes and Centers.

“I am honored to be selected as a Kirschstein-NRSA postdoctoral fellow,” Seemiller said. “The three years of support from the fellowship will help me to continue my training and conduct meaningful research.”

Seemiller is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Nikki Crowley, Huck Early Career Chair in Neurobiology and Neural Engineering and assistant professor of biology. Her research is focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying adolescent alcohol use and its long-term consequences.

“Laurel is a graduate of the Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Biosciences (MCIBS) Graduate Program in the Penn State Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences where she was supported by an NIH Institutional Training Grant,” Crowley said. “Her ability to pivot towards new and exciting work while staying at the same institution highlights the huge breadth of neuroscience research happening at Penn State. Since joining my lab, I’ve gotten to see firsthand just how well this program prepared Laurel for a career in neuroscience, as well as the new training opportunities the Huck and Eberly offer her. She is extremely deserving of this latest recognition and I’m excited to be a part of her journey toward establishing her own independent research lab.”

The primary goals of Seemiller’s proposed studies are to determine how alcohol exposure throughout adolescence dysregulates a subpopulation of neurons that express the neuropeptide, somatostatin.  She will then explore how this dysregulation is related to sex-specific behaviors that have been observed in adult mice after adolescent alcohol consumption.

“Adolescent alcohol use is a national health problem,” Seemiller said. “It is associated with negative health outcomes, such as psychiatric disorders, but relatively little is known about the mechanisms underlying sex differences in adolescent binge drinking and changes in cortical circuits involved in brain health and psychiatric conditions.”

Seemiller will examine how adolescent binge drinking causes sex differences in prelimbic somatostatin neuronal regulation of behavior and test the therapeutic potential of targeting this population of neurons for prevention of adolescent alcohol’s long-term consequences.

Seemiller earned a doctoral degree in molecular cellular and integrative biosciences from Penn State in 2022 and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Susquehanna University in 2017.