The University of Vermont Graduate College is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2016 Rodney L. Parsons Anatomy and Neurobiology Award is Estelle Spear, a doctoral student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program.

Spear hails from Chardon, Ohio. It was as a middle school student in this rural city that Neuroscience sparked her interest, and throughout middle and high school, Spear competed statewide and nationally in Science Olympiad. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree from Allegheny College in the cellular tract of the Neuroscience program. When Spear decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, she chose UVM because of the facilities, faculty, and the atmosphere of the Burlington area.

Spear joined the lab of Dr. Gary Mawe in 2013, forming a campus-wide collaboration with neurologist Dr. Angela Applebee and immunologist Dr. Cory Teuscher. Together with her mentors, Spear uses clinical and experimental approaches to study the role of antibodies in gastrointestinal dysmotility associated with the neurodegenerative disease, multiple sclerosis.

In 2016, she applied for, and was awarded, a pre-doctoral fellowship through the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. With a thesis defense in sight, she is currently interviewing with laboratories in which to pursue her post-doctoral fellowship. Her career goals are to continue as an academic researcher, with an emphasis in educating students in both the classroom and the laboratory. The money provided through the 2016 Rodney L. Parsons Anatomy and Neurobiology Award will help fund her attendance to several career development and teaching workshops to further her training in science education.

Spear is actively involved in neuroscience outreach, promoting STEM education at the elementary through high school levels, with a particular interest in women in science. Her other hobbies include sewing, crocheting, camping and mountain biking.


Hannah Marie Helme