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Translational Neurobiology Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC

Faculty Research Areas

As part of the application requirement, neuroSURF students must select a faculty mentor at the Institute that is actively engaged in neurobiology research. Neurobiology research at the Institute areas are described below.


Behavioral, Cognitive, and Computational Neuroscience

One unifying theme of the Institute’s research program is based on a simple fact: Fifty percent of all human disease is related to the nervous system. Institute scientists integrate new technologies and foster multidisciplinary thinking to understand how the human brain develops, makes choices, and responds to disease and injury.

Scientists in the Institute’s Computational Psychiatry Unit, for example, work across disciplines to understand the neural computations involved in human cognition and psychiatric disorders such as depression, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic addiction, and autism spectrum disorders.

Faculties in these areas include: 

Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Neurobiology

With 86 billion neurons and more than 100 trillion synapses in your brain continuously passing information up to 200 miles an hour, your brain is right to believe it’s your most important organ. The connections in the brain need to develop correctly, and damaged or improperly formed connections can lead to neurological disorders.

Scientists at the Institute study how neurons and other cells in the brain form, what happens if they’re damaged, and how to restore them in the damaged or diseased brain. Researchers work across disciplines to understand the mechanisms of cellular, molecular, and developmental neurobiology, and innovate therapeutic interventions for disorders such as traumatic brain injury, neurodevelopmental disorders, psychiatric disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, muscular dystrophy, and spinal muscular atrophy.

Excercise Medicine Research

The Center for Exercise Medicine Research explores the role of exercise in preventing cardiovascular, metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer, which account for more than 75% of health care costs in the United States. The center aims to be a nexus of collaboration among health scientists from across the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus, and Carilion Clinic to address obesity and cardiometabolic health. The center is led by Zhen Yan, Ph.D., a global leader in cellular exercise research.


Glial cells are the brain’s most abundant cell type. At the Institute, scientists investigate the mechanisms underlying glial cell function in health, normal brain development, and disease, including brain tumors. Researchers can use this new found information to develop interventions and therapeutics for poor glial health.

Like cells in any tissue, brain cells can become infected by viruses and bacteria or can become cancerous. Scientists at the institute are studying the mechanisms of infection, immunity, and cancer in order to better understand how to protect human health.

Implementation Science

From the intensive care unit to the operating room to outpatient clinical practice, health care is a high risk setting. Scientists exploring how these environments work use methods such as human factors, systems engineering, bioinformatics, computational modeling, industrial/organizational psychology, and implementation science, to study clinical team performance during patient care – and how to make it better.