Emily Nalven Krasnow '17 Selected for Fulbright U.S. Student Award
The biology major will research the role of C9orf72 proteins in neurodegenerative diseases in a Katholieke Universiteit Leuven lab in Belgium.
Emily Nalven Krasnow '17 never thought she'd apply for a Fulbright Award, let alone win one. But, inspired by the accomplished female scientists that Assistant Professor Lou Charkoudian brought into her "Biochemistry Superlab" course last spring, the biology major and neuroscience minor did both.
"Many of the women had done prestigious research fellowships and were currently doing amazing work, so I started to look into some of [those fellowships]," says Krasnow, who is the co-president of the Haverford Women in STEM club. "One day I walked into Lou's office and asked her to be brutally honest with me and tell me if she thought I was a good candidate for something like a Fulbright. And she encouraged me to apply."
That encouragement paid off as earlier this month when the biology major and neuroscience minor found out that she was a recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Student Award. As such, she will move to Leuven, Belgium, this summer to work in the lab of Ludo Van den Bosch at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL), a member of the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain and Disease Research, where she will spend the next year studying the role of C9orf72 proteins in neurodegenerative diseases.
"[I will be] delving into their role in liquid-liquid phase separation, which can result in cellular stress and ultimately neurodegeneration," she says.
One of just four students research awards in Belgium this year, Krasnow's Fulbright Award will fund round-trip travel; room, board, and incidentals; and health insurance for the year.
Here at Haverford, she has spent two years conducting related research in Biology Professor Rob Fairman's lab, studying the proteins produced by a mutation in C9orf72 that results in ALS and frontotemporal dementia. Her senior thesis investigates how coexpressing a protein shown to improve disease conditions in Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s can affect the expression and toxicity of C9orf72 proteins in a fruit fly model.
"I am interested in neuroscience and hope to pursue a career in pediatric neurology, which is what drove me the research being conducted in the Fairman lab in the first place," says Krasnow. "While I want to be a physician, it is impossible to truly understand treatment without understanding the basic science underlying our knowledge of diseases and how we address them. Research is what brings us the cutting-edge treatments that change lives, it is how we move the field forward."
Krasnow's first developed an interest in neuroscience in eighth grade while teaching dance to children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. A desire to understand the underlying phenomena that made each of her students unique is what first led her to the lab. And now, as part of her Fulbright year, she hopes to plant the seeds of a similar dance program in Leuven, which can bloom long after she has left Belgium.
In addition to trying lots of the country's famous chocolate, Krasnow is also looking forward to finding an opportunity to visit Geel, the Belgian city where for hundreds of years neurodiverse people have lived with families as boarders in lieu of institutional care.
"After taking a Disability Studies course with Kristin Lindgren last spring, my perspective on disability was expanded from just the medical perspective to include the social aspect, the two of which I hope to integrate into my research and outreach in Belgium."
Now that she's looking ahead to a year spent abroad, pursuing her research passions, Krasnow is so thankful to everyone who gave her the courage to apply for that opportunity.
"For a decent part of my undergrad career, like many other women in STEM, I didn't think I was good enough to accomplish something like this," she says. "With the support of my family, friends, and the Haverford community, I gained the ability and confidence to do so. Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way and to the strong women who came before who made me believe this was possible, particular those at Haverford and those in my family."