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Arts and Sciences Student Selected for 2024 CURE Fellowship

By Jonathan Greene

McKenna Green
McKenna Green

University of Kentucky (UK) College of Arts and Sciences psychology and College of Public Health (CPH) public health dual major McKenna Green is one of 14 UK undergraduates selected for the 2024 Commonwealth Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) Fellowship program. The fellowship will support McKenna as she works on research related to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Sponsored by the UK Office of Undergraduate Research and the Office of the Vice President for Research, the CURE Fellowship program empowers undergraduates to develop new knowledge and skills through research within eight of UK’s Research Priority Areas: cancer, cardiovascular health, diabetes and obesity, energy, equity (UNITE), materials science, neuroscience, and substance use disorder.

Students selected as CURE Fellows receive a $5,000 stipend to support research endeavors during the summer 2024 term.

Students interact with the other fellows in their cohort during the summer research period and present their research at the Summer Research Symposium in August.

“It was so exciting,” McKenna said when finding out she received the fellowship. “I could hardly believe it. As soon as I got the email, I sent a screenshot to my Mom and Pop.”

As part of the program, fellows work on a research project under a mentor associated with a research priority area.

McKenna’s research is in neuroscience, and her mentor is Linda Van Eldik, PhD, in the College of Medicine’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. Her project involves examining p38 activation in relation to high-fat diet, brain inflammation, and memory impairment, focusing on cognitive decline related to Alzheimer's disease.

The rising junior said working with Dr. Van Eldik’s lab for the past two semesters has been transformative, as she has learned new skills and made valuable connections.

"Working within Dr. Van Eldik’s lab has been a privilege, and I am beyond grateful for the opportunities that it has given me," McKenna said. "I came to her as a freshman looking for the opportunity to get research experience and have gained much more from it than I could have ever imagined."

McKenna is interested in this work, in part, because of her own experiences.

“As someone who has seen firsthand what later-life dementia can do to a family and an individual, being a part of this lab means a lot to me and so does this project,” she said.

McKenna said undergraduate research has been exciting.

“I never really understood what all it takes to do research until I became a part of it,” she said. “It has allowed me to grow.”

As a dual major and Lewis Honors student, McKenna’s journey to public health was long.

“When I came to college, I thought that the pre-med route was the right fit for me. Eventually, I realized I was wrong,” she said. “While trying to figure out my next steps, I took an intro-level public health class and fell in love with it. After a few classes, I realized that public health and psychology can go hand-in-hand.”