INI awards Kwak-Ferguson Fellowship to 2 neuroscience graduate students

Two students in the University of Iowa Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience have been awarded Kwak-Ferguson Fellowships from the Iowa Neuroscience Institute. Samantha Pierson and Marco Pipoly, fourth- and fifth-year students, respectively, were awarded $5,000 each for their work in the area of neurodegenerative diseases.

Samantha PiersonPierson’s research focuses on mechanisms underlying tau accumulation in the dorsal raphe area of the brain and the spread of tau pathology to other brain regions after chronic alcohol exposure. This spread may be associated with behavioral dysregulation in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline in later stages. In nominating Pierson for the fellowship, her mentor, Catherine Marcinkiewicz, assistant professor of neuroscience and pharmacology, said she is “an extraordinary young scientist” who is “eager to tackle long-standing scientific problems that involve some element of risk.”


Marco PipolyPipoly’s research focuses on understanding “cognitive reserve,” or how the aging brain maintains cognitive function in some individuals despite the presence of age-related atrophy and neurodegeneration. His mentors are Michelle Voss, associate professor, and Eliot Hazeltine, professor, both in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. They cited his “sharp intellect, scientific acumen, and creativity for thinking about brain-behavior relationships” in nominating him for the award.


Both Pierson and Pipoly plan to present their work at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in San Diego in November.

The Kwak-Ferguson Fellowship was established by Donald Timm, a Muscatine native and graduate of the UI College of Law who spent more than 30 years working for the U.S. Department of Defense as an expert on international law. He created the fellowship in honor of two individuals—his friend and mentor, Mr. Myung-Duk Kwak, a Korean attorney and statesman, and his aunt, Louise A.M. (Amelia Marie) Brown Ferguson, an educator and missionary—both of whom died due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Thursday, August 11, 2022