Drexel Undergrad, CHOP Advisor Present Brain Research on Capitol Hill


A Drexel University undergraduate, accompanied by her CHOP faculty advisor, recently had the opportunity to present her traumatic brain injury research to a group of elected officials in Washington, D.C. at Posters on the Hill. Organized by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), this annual event gives undergraduate investigators the chance to share their work directly with members of Congress, and is “an important opportunity for lawmakers to see how federal dollars make a real difference for students and faculty and nurture interest in research and postsecondary study.”

Matthew R. Maltese, PhD, director of Biomechanics Research in Children’s Hospital’s Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, acted as Drexel University undergraduate Veronika Legkobitova’s faculty advisor. Legkobitova, a mechanical engineering student at Drexel, was one of 60 undergraduates from across the country to be chosen from more than 800 applicants to attend Posters on the Hill.

Dr. Maltese was teamed up with Legkobitova through Drexel’s STAR Scholars program, which pairs “high-achieving” undergraduates with faculty mentors so students can “explore a major course of study, and gain practical skills and valuable research experience for their future career or course of graduate study.”

While at Posters on the Hill, Legkobitova presented her research, “Effect of Brain Stem Displacement on Traumatic Brain Injury.” Her project was focused on improving finite element models — a type of computer model used to predict injury — by measuring the boundary condition of the foramen magnum (which transmits the medulla oblongata and spinal nerves) during head movement.

She and Dr. Maltese also had the chance to meet with several officials and staff members, including Philadelphia’s own Rep. Chaka Fattah, as well as staffers from the offices of Sen. Pat Toomey and Rep. Patrick Meehan.

Legkobitova also presented Rep. Fattah with the 2013 Honorary CUR Fellowship Award, which is given annually “to leaders working to promote undergraduate research and the mission of the CUR.” Since 1995 Congressman Fattah has represented Pennsylvania’s 2nd District, and is the senior Democrat on the House Appropriation Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.

“It was really interesting to see a different part of research: the law-making part,” Legkobitova said. “Meeting the actual people involved in deciding what government funding goes into grants and learning their personal opinions on it was eye-opening. I didn’t realize how many people were invested in the research that even undergraduates do, and how important that research can be to students, professionals, and society.”

For more information about Posters on the Hill, see the Council on Undergraduate Research’s page. To learn more about the STAR scholars program, see Drexel University’s page.

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