On December 11th-13th, 2017, ROUTES Scholar Morgan Hines visited the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne (UIUC) in order to train PhD students in Dr. Susan Schantz’s lab on setting-up and calibrating their new Non-Nutritive Suck (NNS) device, which was delivered to the UIUC campus earlier that week as a part of a research collaboration endeavor with The Center for Research on Early Childhood Exposure and Development in Puerto Rico (CRECE). The NNS device delivered to UIUC is the same as the device used in Puerto Rico for CRECE’s Project 1.
To prepare for this experience, Morgan spent her ROUTES co-op working under the direction of Dr. Emily Zimmerman, who originally developed the NNS device in order to provide a way to quantitatively test suck patterns in infants. Specifically, Morgan worked in the Northeastern University Speech and Neurodevelopment lab, where she collected and investigated Non-Nutritive Suck data in order to understand connections between environmental exposures and neurodevelopment. In discussing the importance of this device, Morgan stated, “Sucking requires coordination of various facial muscles and requires the coordination of various motor functions. . . NNS is indicative of central nervous system and orofacial development. Because of this and its well-patterned quality, NNS can be used as a neurodevelopmental marker. In this way, NNS helps us to monitor the effects of environmental exposures on development.” Both CRECE and Dr. Schantz’s lab are part of NIH’s Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) study, and will continue to collaborate on child neurodevelopmental research in the future.
Morgan is a fourth year Biology and English student from Louisville, Kentucky. At Northeastern University, she is involved in both the University Scholars Program and the Honors Program. Morgan says that taking the course “Epidemiology of Pandemic Diseases and Health Disparities in the African Diaspora” sparked her interest in environmental and public health and inspired her to apply for a co-op through ROUTES. What especially excited Morgan about ROUTES was the program’s promise of offering her a fuller understanding of clinical, social, and biological environmental health topics. Thanks in part to her experience with ROUTES, Morgan says she hopes to eventually earn a MD-MPH and engage in both clinical practice and public health research.
Thank you for your hard work, Morgan! We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.