University of Pittsburgh

Department of Neuroscience


Abdul-Kareem Ahmed, Class of 2012


Hometown: Wakefield, Rhode Island

Major(s): Neuroscience, History & Philosophy of Science

Favorite hobby or book: Hobby, Writing – Book, anything by J. R. R. Tolkien

" I love how every Neuroscience faculty member is willing to help you, no matter what your need is. A nurturing and supportive attitude is pervasive across the entire department; someone is always there to help you in your academic and life endeavors. Perhaps that is by design. Moreover, the faculty is diverse. There are world-renown scientists working on everything from molecular neuroscience to sensation and perception, who also teach core courses. These folks continue to inspire you class after class. The young neuroscience student is spoiled for choice. Being a neuroscience major was a wise decision for so many reasons."


 "I was born in Connecticut but grew up in Rhode Island, the Ocean State. Either way I have always been near the coast. Coming to Pittsburgh was a major shift for me. However, I was quick in finding my groove, and part of that was being a Neuroscience major. I also focused on philosophy because of the many courses offered on medical ethics. The double major was a perfect match for my interests.

Besides science, my other focus in college has been writing, science writing. I wrote for The Pitt News, helped start The Pitt Pulse and will soon be going to graduate school for science writing. I believe the environment engendered by faculty at Pitt, and especially in this department has allowed me to reach this level in a craft I never believed I had a capacity for. I will forever remember my time here."

Nola Juste, Class of 2011

Hometown: Boothwyn, PA

Major: Neuroscience and Africana Studies

Favorite Hobby: My favorite hobby is reading

Favorite book: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

"What I love most about the Neuroscience Department

other than the fact that the classes are awesome and extremely interesting is that the professors, faculty, and staff really, truly care about their students. I feel that my professors genuinely want to see students do well and they are always more than willing to help you. I feel very lucky to be in a department where my professors feel so strongly about students understanding the material that they provide review sessions before exams and opportunities to go over exams in class. I know that I can go to any professor to ask for advice or vent about a bad day and it is nice to be able to have that kind of a relationship with faculty.

I’m a senior neuroscience and Africana studies double major. I was the past Neuroscience Club Vice President and Public Relations Chair for Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Health Honor Society and the Pre-Medical Organization for Minority Students (POMS). I am currently the President of the R.I.S.E. Mentoring Program, and the Business Manager for POMS. I am also a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary and the Student Organization for the Department of Africana Studies (SODAS). I also currently conduct neuroscience related cancer research at the Hillman Cancer Center under the supervision of Dr. Charles Horn. I study the effects of cancer chemotherapy agents on the brain using electrophysiology to improve chemotherapy drugs as well as the effects of psychological stress on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. I previously did clinical research at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh under the supervision of Dr. Pamela Murray in which I assisted with a randomized controlled trial comparing motivational interviewing and structured brief advice for the reduction of adolescent cigarette smoking. Next year I am planning on pursuing a MPH in the fall. My ultimate goal is to become a pediatric hematologist/ oncologist and find a cure to cancer and sickle cell anemia!"

Laura Cifrese, Class of 2011

Hometown: Reading, PA   


Major: Neuroscience

Favorite hobby: Field Hockey

Favorite book: The Four Agreements

Laura says "I graduated from Governor Mifflin High School in 2007, where I was an active member of Key Club, captain of the field hockey and track teams, and vice-president of Spanish Honor Society and National Honor Society. I came to the University of Pittsburgh because I was interested in its commitment to undergraduate research and its strong neuroscience program. I am now a sophomore at Pitt, and I am involved in AMSA, RSA, the C.F. Reynolds Medical History Society, and Project Sunshine. I also work with Dr. Haas helping to enter data on the NIMH Fellowship as well as assisting in her lab. I enjoy the extensity of opportunities at Pitt as well as the diversity of its students. I hope to attend medical school after graduation.

I love the vast amount of resources available to students in the Neuroscience Department. Everyone is always willing to give their advice and help guide us through our studies."


Jenna Suffoletto, Class of 2009

Hometown:  Elma, NY

Major:  Neuroscience

Favorite hobby: Tennis

Favorite book:

Tie between The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo and Better by Atul Gawande

"I am a senior neuroscience major and am planning on going to medical school next fall.  My goal is to be a surgeon and to open up a practice of my own.  Throughout my time at Pitt, I was able to explore many opportunities.  During my freshman year, I  was a varsity tennis player, an experience I loved for the camaraderie and team friendships. In order to learn more about medicine, I have spent over ninety hours observing a variety of surgeries.  I have worked as a Research Associate in Neurosurgery at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York.  In this position, I researched the expression of protein targets in glioblastoma that could be targeted for vaccination.  I was responsible for designing the primer to inject into the cells.  I also spent a semester as a Histotechnologist in the Neural Basis of Cognition Center at Pitt. Most recently, I shadowed an Orthopaedic Surgery group in Western New York.  My experience with the Neuroscience Department has allowed me to take advantage of opportunities that have enhanced my education even with the demanding coursework required for majors.

What I love the most about the Neuroscience Department is the dynamics between the students, teachers, and advisor.  All Neuroscience majors are not taking Neuroscience courses because they have to—they want to.  This leads to a better learning environment in the classroom because there are numerous questions asked during classes and more student-teacher interaction to get a better understanding of the material. 

I am also very pleased with the curriculum required during our undergraduate careers.  The material we deal with is a great foundation for topics we will explore in Medical school or graduate school.  Overall, I am extremely happy with the Neuroscience Department at Pitt and highly recommend neuroscience as a major for students pursuing careers in medicine and other health-realted areas."


Dan Mandell, Class of 2009

Hometown:  North Hills, PA

Majors:  Neuroscience, Chemistry

Favorite hobbies:  Attempting to play my guitar, cycling, watching Arrested Development or Curb Your Enthusiasm, reading 1984 or any dystopia type novel like that.

What I love most about the Neuroscience Department at Pitt is the faculty.

"I guess I floated through my first few years of college with little direction or motivation. That was when I actually had a social life; then I discovered neuroscience toward the end of my junior year and fell in love. Now I spend most of my time with my head in a book.(hopefully it will pay off?) I would say my main interest as of now is relating in-vivo neurochemical measurements with behavior and different drug treatments."


Cailin Frank, Class of 2009

Hometown: Wilkes Barre, PA

Majors: Neuroscience, Anthropology

Favorite hobby:  Playing the guitar.

What I love most about the Neuroscience Department is absolutely the faculty.  They are incredibly helpful and offer a lot of opportunities for students to get involved in various aspects of neuroscience. 

"Coming here from a small town in Pennsylvania I never knew I’d graduate striving for even further schooling.  I feel accomplished in gaining the inspiration to become a doctor and even more fulfilled advocating public health.  In the past four years I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring my interests at Pitt.  I have changed my career aspirations more times than I can count, but it only means that I am growing to discover my true interests and aspirations."