Carnegie Mellon University
September 14, 2021

Gao Awarded Sutherland-Merlino Fellowship

By Caroline Sheedy

The Neuroscience Institute has awarded its inaugural Sutherland-Merlino Fellowship to Emma Gao, a first year Ph.D. candidate in the Program in Systems Neuroscience (PSN).

The new fellowship provides support for one incoming Ph.D. student from PSN or the Program in Neural Computation. The award is intended to honor a member of the incoming class who embodies a love of learning.

Gao, a graduate student rotating with Aryn Gittis, intends to study early-stage Parkinson’s disease. In most cases, Parkinsonian patients only show motor symptoms in the later stage of the disease progression, when outcomes are irreversible. In her research, Gao wants to study how sub-stream neurons react to the neuron loss in the early stage using a gradual depletion model and identify behavioral changes.

The PSN program, which trains students with backgrounds in biology and neuroscience disciplines in the field of quantitative systems neuroscience, is new to CMU this year. Gao said she is excited to be a part of the new PSN program because of the opportunity for cross-disciplinary collaboration. 

“Carnegie Mellon has a great computational program,” Gao said. “And at the same time, I’m excited to potentially work with someone from biomedical engineering to develop some new devices. In my opinion, these kinds of things can only happen at CMU.”

The Sutherland-Merlino Fellowship is made possible by the generosity of Nancie Merlino.

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