• Undergraduate students presented the results of their research projects on August 9 at the 2013 UROP Poster Session and Luncheon at the MIT Simons Center for the Social Brain.

    Undergraduate students presented the results of their research projects on August 9 at the 2013 UROP Poster Session and Luncheon at the MIT Simons Center for the Social Brain.

    Photo: Thomas Gearty

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  • The Simons Center for the Social Brain seeks to understand the neural mechanisms underlying social cognition and behavior, and to translate this knowledge into better diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Several students at the poster session, such as Danielle Penny '16, said they were interested in a UROP with the Simons Center because they have family members with autism.

    The Simons Center for the Social Brain seeks to understand the neural mechanisms underlying social cognition and behavior, and to translate this knowledge into better diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Several students at the poster session, such as Danielle Penny '16, said they were interested in a UROP with the Simons Center because they have family members with autism.

    Photo: Thomas Gearty

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  • For his project Berj Chilingirian '16, a double major in applied mathematics and computer science, sought to isolate genes associated with stereotypies, or repetitive behaviors. "You want to find genes that are very specific to a certain action in the body," he said, "and how you can target those genes with some kind of therapy."

    For his project Berj Chilingirian '16, a double major in applied mathematics and computer science, sought to isolate genes associated with stereotypies, or repetitive behaviors. "You want to find genes that are very specific to a certain action in the body," he said, "and how you can target those genes with some kind of therapy."

    Photo: Thomas Gearty

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  • Elaine McVay '15, an undergraduate majoring in electrical engineering and computer science, posed with MIT professor Mriganka Sur, the director of the Simons Center. McVay's project analyzed 430 apps used by autistic children and proposed that data gleaned from games and other apps could facilitate an autistic child's learning experience.

    Elaine McVay '15, an undergraduate majoring in electrical engineering and computer science, posed with MIT professor Mriganka Sur, the director of the Simons Center. McVay's project analyzed 430 apps used by autistic children and proposed that data gleaned from games and other apps could facilitate an autistic child's learning experience.

    Photo: Thomas Gearty

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  • Emma Chaloux-Pinette '16 (right) is majoring in biology, but the Simons Center UROPs drew students from disciplines across MIT. "There is a poster here from chemistry. There are posters here from brain and cognitive sciences, biology, engineering," Sur said. "Our goal as we grow is to include more and more parts of MIT."

    Emma Chaloux-Pinette '16 (right) is majoring in biology, but the Simons Center UROPs drew students from disciplines across MIT. "There is a poster here from chemistry. There are posters here from brain and cognitive sciences, biology, engineering," Sur said. "Our goal as we grow is to include more and more parts of MIT."

    Photo: Thomas Gearty

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  • Biology student Maximilien Baas-Thomas '16 investigated the molecular role of shank, a synaptic protein that has been linked to autism. Although the summer projects have concluded, the UROP research becomes part of the collective work of the associated laboratories.

    Biology student Maximilien Baas-Thomas '16 investigated the molecular role of shank, a synaptic protein that has been linked to autism. Although the summer projects have concluded, the UROP research becomes part of the collective work of the associated laboratories.

    Photo: Thomas Gearty

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  • Rebecca Shi '16 discussed her research with Troy Littleton, an MIT professor of biology and an investigator in the Simons Center. "In some sense, it's an obligation we all have to train the next generation and have these kinds of opportunities to allow students to figure out that they like doing science," Littleton said.

    Rebecca Shi '16 discussed her research with Troy Littleton, an MIT professor of biology and an investigator in the Simons Center. "In some sense, it's an obligation we all have to train the next generation and have these kinds of opportunities to allow students to figure out that they like doing science," Littleton said.

    Photo: Thomas Gearty

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Poster session showcases UROP projects

Undergraduate students presented the results of their research projects on August 9 at the 2013 UROP Poster Session and Luncheon at the MIT Simons Center for the Social Brain.

Students presented the results of their summer UROP projects at the MIT Simons Center.


Eighteen MIT undergraduates recently presented the results of their summer research projects at the 2013 UROP Poster Session and Luncheon, held at the MIT Simons Center for the Social Brain.

Each student spent 10 weeks this summer working in faculty labs as part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). In the program, students are paired on a specific research project with both a faculty investigator and another mentor, typically a postdoc fellow or graduate student.

“One of our goals is to enable undergraduate researchers to be a part of the laboratory,” said Mriganka Sur, the Paul E. and Lilah Newton Professor of Neuroscience at MIT and director of the Simons Center. “It is important that they be involved in laboratories that are at the cutting edge of research on neuroscience, brain development, and brain disorders.”

Encouraging undergraduates to join a lab team is “a win-win,” Sur said. The students gain an understanding of how to conduct advanced research, while working on real-world problems that further the mission of the Simons Center, he said.

For example, Danielle Penny ’16 took a unique approach to investigating how cognitive flexibility — the ability to switch between different thoughts and perspectives, depending on the situation — is impaired in autism spectrum disorders.

“We’re not tagging along with something that’s already been studied to get a replicated result,” Penny said. “We’re really trying to drive forward autism research.”

The mission of the Simons Center — which is supported by a grant from the Simons Foundation for Autism Research Initiative — is to understand the neural mechanisms underlying social cognition and behavior, and to translate this knowledge into better diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.


Topics: Neuroscience, Simons Center for the Social Brain, Student life, Students, Undergraduate, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)

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