Alum Supports Neuroscience Through Inspiring Lives and Leadership Campaign

Loras College is getting into mischief. Thanks to the generous $50,000 Inspiring Lives and Leadership:  The Loras Legacy campaign gift from Nicholas Stanek, M.D. (’84), and his wife Nita, of Dubuque, the College was able to acquire a mischief of mice and build a lab for the neuroscience program.

Because of the generosity of the Staneks, the program is providing crucial, hands-on experiences.

Neuroscience majors are able to apply textbook knowledge to tangible work, and encounter the challenges and advantages associated with designing and conducting primary research.   They have the opportunity to study and conduct social stressor experiments to investigate effects on behavior, stress physiology and immune function of the mice. This semester, two groups of students chose to research two separate topics to determine whether or not different manipulations would affect mice either behaviorally or physiologically: food restriction and social isolation. The outcome measures that all students are using to evaluate the power of their  manipulations are behavioral measurements, like time spent in the open or closed arms of the elevated plus maze and physiological measurements, like the concentration of corticosterone, the primary stress response hormone in rodents, found in the mouse hair. 

Consistent access to a facility, such as the one the Staneks funded, is integral for professional development. In the past, Loras students traveled to other research facilities to conduct this level of experiments. However, now that the College has established a mouse colony of its own, students have easy access to facilities in order to conduct ongoing research and thesis work.

“The opportunity to work with live model organisms at the undergraduate level is proving to be extremely beneficial. Not only is it a ton of fun, but it’s also a great learning experience. Being able to add lab experience with live animals has helped to set me apart from other students on applications. It has even helped me be accepted to a summer undergraduate research program at the Mayo Clinic. I know that the experiences I’ve had in the rodent lab will also help in my graduate school applications. I am extremely grateful for the people who made this possible and for the opportunity to design and run my own experiments at the undergraduate level,” said student Jacalyn Russ (’15).
“We think it is absolutely incredible that an institution the size of Loras could support a neuroscience program of any size. We strongly support this initiative and we hope that others will see the benefit of supporting this program,” explained Dr. Stanek. “For any institution to have a viable neuroscience program, faculty and students must have the means to physically interact with experiments that teach the fundamentals of neuroscience. I am hopeful that the funding of the neuroscience lab will generate student enthusiasm in the larger field of neuroscience. Perhaps this enthusiasm will encourage someone to pursue a similar career path I chose because the medical community is woefully short of clinicians interested in neurology. We jumped at this chance to give back to Loras in what we hope is a very meaningful way.”
Dr. Stanek graduated from Loras College in 1984, with a degree in chemistry. He received his medical degree from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, specializing in neurology and internal medicine. Upon completing his residency at Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center, he returned to Dubuque and began working for Medical Associates in 1996.

He has also contributed to the Loras Neuroscience Program by being the first visiting speaker when he addressed  a packed room about his career path, and some of the work he is currently conducting. 

“Nick and Nita Stanek have been extremely generous in their support of the neuroscience program.  This multi-purpose lab is used both for students’ independent research projects and for hands-on laboratory work as part of certain classes within the program.  This rodent facility simply would not be here if not for their gift, and the students in the neuroscience program have benefitted directly from it,” said Assistant Professor of Neuroscience Mike Jarcho, Ph.D.

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