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Computational neuroscience program takes Gahl back to City of Bridges

Gahl stands in front of some decorative chairs and a window.

Martha Gahl, an electrical engineering major, recently was accepted to participate in a summer program with the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, a joint institute operated by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. Photo by Ryan Owens.

Martha Gahl hasn’t been to Pittsburgh since visiting family as a child. Her love of neuroscience will take her back to the City of Bridges this summer.

Gahl, an electrical engineering major, recently was accepted to participate in a summer program with the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, a joint institute operated by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

The highly-competitive program is funded by the National Institutes of Health. While there, Gahl will be working in the lab of University of Pittsburgh Neuroscience Professor Stephen Meriney, utilizing her computational skills.

“He does a lot with the neuromuscular junction, looking at the connection between different synapses in the brain,” Gahl said. “He does a lot with the Pitt supercomputing center. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll be doing, but it’ll involve computational work and working with the neuromuscular junction.”

Gahl developed her computational skills working in the lab of Jian Lin, an assistant professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. Her computational work in Lin’s lab focuses on his robust materials science research portfolio, but her abilities should translate perfectly to her upcoming neuroscience work.

“It’s a different topic but a lot of the same kind of skills,” she said.

Gahl plans on continuing in the neuroscience realm after her academic career comes to a close. She’s currently working on a minor in computational neuroscience alongside her major, and she said she’s excited to get her first big real-world lab experience in the field. Gahl also expressed excitement at the opportunity to mix and mingle with other students with similar interests from other areas of the country as part of the program.

“I’m just so excited,” Gahl said. “I honestly couldn’t believe (I got accepted). … It’s just a wonderful opportunity.”