Undergraduate Research Fellow Spotlight

Two of IBACS’

Undergraduate Research Fellows

have been recognized as University Scholars

for their research efforts.


Ben Babbitt

Ben is a junior pre-medical student at UConn, from Shrewsbury MA, looking to study Neuro-Orthopedic Surgery. He was recently recognized as a University Scholar for his research efforts in the Conover laboratory. Ben studies fetal-onset hydrocephalus and is currently tracking the fate of neuroepithelial stem cells in the lateral ventricles using mouse models. The main goal of his research is to evaluate the mechanisms of normal and hydrocephalic brain development using cellular development mapping techniques and spatiotemporal characterization of cell differentiation.

The IBACS Undergrad Research Fellowship funding that Ben received allowed him to pay for the cost of imaging immuno-stained brain slices for the visualization of cell morphology and provided him the resources to improve his protocols for brain tissue preparation and cell fate mapping. “Having the funding to complete my research is absolutely essential and the funding I received from IBACS greatly improved my ability to produce high quality results. IBACS not only provided me with funding to complete my research but they also have been very supportive throughout my research process”, Ben said. Ben is also interested in hospital administration and health care policy and hopes to receive a joint MD/MBA dual professional degree.


Erika Randazzo

Erika is a member of the Honors Program from Norwalk, CT, pursuing a dual degree in Physiology and Neurobiology (PNB) and Pathobiology, with a minor in Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. Erika’s research interests at UConn are centered on neuroscience, with a focus on Developmental Neurobiology. In the Loturco Lab, she’s working to identify the neural precursor cell that gives rise to supratentorial ependymomas during development. This aim is studied through the IUE surgical injection of a fusion mutation known to give rise to the specific subclass of brain tumors under consideration. Different tags for different neural cells are included in the injection in different surgeries to allow for identification of the neural precursor cell. Following sectioning and processing for immuno-fluorescence with primary antibodies that are used to label different cells in ependymoma tumors, brain sections are imaged using an AxioZoom microscope. The number and size of tumor masses are quantified at three different ages under each condition studied.  The measurements are then compared by analysis of variance.  Erika hopes to discover the growth rates of tumor masses and individual pseudo-rosettes that are present within the brain tumors resulting from different progenitor cells.

Outside of academics, Erika is an active member of the UConn Women’s Track & Field and Cross Country teams, the Pre-Medical society, SASP tutoring program, and the Pre-Med newsletter committee. After graduation, she plans to pursue a Research (Plan A) Master’s Degree in PNB before attending medical school, with the ultimate goal of pursuing an MD/Ph.D and specializing in Sports Orthopedic Surgery.