Chronic Pain Research Consortium Undergraduate Wins National Fellowship

A sophomore biology major has won an American Physiological Society (APS) fellowship to continue her study of gender differences in chronic pain.

Abigail Cox discusses her research with Dr. Benedict Kolber.

The elite Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship has been awarded to Abigail Cox, who started work after her freshman year in the laboratory of Dr. Benedict Kolber, assistant professor of biological sciences. Kolber also is the research and education coordinator for Duquesne’s Chronic Pain Research Consortium, which encourages researchers to discuss findings related to different aspects of chronic pain across biology, chemistry, neuroscience, pharmacy and other disciplines.

The APS selects up to only 24 students nationwide to participate in this summer program, which runs from Monday, May 23, to Friday, July 22.

Through the fellowship, Cox will continue her work at Duquesne on gender-related similarities and disparities in bladder pain. A chronic disorder that impacts the lives of about 1.3 million people, bladder pain has few effective treatment options.

Cox’s work has built upon an understanding of the activation and deactivation of certain areas of the brain in conjunction with bladder pain. While women suffer from bladder pain syndrome twice as often as men, both sexes are susceptible to the devastating effects of this disease. The APS fellowship will allow Cox to explore whether changes in tissue morphology and protein expression are similar in both sexes as they suffer from this disorder.

“Abby is a curious and inquisitive young researcher,” said Kolber. “I anticipate that her summer research will drive the development of a new paradigm in how our lab thinks about bladder pain, and I hope that the opportunity will help build Abby’s interest in basic biomedical research.”

Besides providing a $4,000 stipend to continue her work, the fellowship will allow Cox to attend and present at the APS 2017 Experimental Biology Meeting in Chicago.

“I’m so excited about that; I’ve never gone to a national conference before,” said Cox. “I really enjoy researching in such a prevalent field. While my efforts benefit me academically, I hope that they can benefit the lives of patients.”

Cox is the second Duquesne student in four years to win an APS undergraduate fellowship. Both have worked in Kolber’s lab.