Lily Barna ’23 and Danielle Goldbaum ’23 Receive NIH Postbaccalaureate IRTA Awards

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The Office of National Fellowships and Scholarships (ONFS) is very pleased to announce that Lily Barna ’23 and Danielle Goldbaum ’23 have received Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training awards (IRTA) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

Lily, a biology major and Jewish studies minor, will join Dr. Chris Gunter’s lab in the National Human Genome Research Institute. Dr. Gunter’s latest research focuses on how to make information about genetic testing more accessible and inclusive. She is particularly focused on people on the autism spectrum and their families. “Over the next two years as a postbac IRTA, I look forward to participating in hands-on research that is impactful and helpful to communities at large,” she says. “I am excited to contribute to something larger than myself and learn and grow as a scientist and young adult.” 

In her first year, Lily will work closely with children and adults on the spectrum, hone her qualitative data analysis skills, and present at several conferences. In her second year, she will have the opportunity to conduct an independent research project within the goal of helping people increase their genetic literacy. “Dr. Gunter’s team brings together my two primary goals: engaging in rigorous person-centered research and using scientific information to improve the lives of communities near and far.” 

Lily’s fascination with biology began in high school when she studied Tay Sachs disease. The fatal condition disproportionately affects the Ashkenazi Jewish population, of which she is a member. Through her coursework and research experiences at Colgate, Lily’s interests have expanded to include cellular biology, genetics, public health, and epidemiology. 

During summer 2022, Lily interned at the Legacy Devers Eye Institute in her hometown of Portland, Ore. She worked with a team studying the relationship between glaucoma progression and blood vessel changes. Over the course of three months, she used laser speckle flowgraphy to obtain and analyze thousands of retinal images. During fall 2022, Lily completed her senior biology thesis, focused on Krüppel-like Factor 4 (KLF4), a transcription factor known to act as a tumor suppressor. At the end of the semester, she determined that KLF4 does regulate proteins that influence cellular methylation levels in line with its tumor suppressing abilities.

Danielle, a neuroscience major, will join Dr. Marisela Morales’s lab in the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Dr. Morales and her team study the neurobiology underlying drug addiction. Their research focuses on the neurological pathways in which drugs of addiction form habits and what neuroadaptations are present when drug administration transitions from recreational to compulsive. “I look forward to working alongside Dr. Morales and her team, whose work has led to incredible findings such as discovering how glutamatergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area regulate aspects of behavior,” Danielle says. “Through further understanding the neurological basis of addiction, I am excited to help combat problems such as unemployment and homelessness that are perpetuated by drug addiction.” 

Danielle’s Colgate neuroscience research career began in the EEG lab of Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Bruce Hansen. As a first-year, she worked as a laboratory technician, responsible for managing the EEG equipment and analyzing participants’ brain waves. While studying abroad in Copenhagen, Danielle conducted an original experiment on whether participants are more creative in an unconscious state. Currently, she is completing her senior honors thesis on the neural mechanisms underlying reward-related learning in Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Ewa Galaj’s drug addiction lab. 

Beyond the classroom, Danielle serves as a volunteer EMT and student coordinator for the Madison EMS Corps. She is also a two-time recipient of the Manzi Fellowship. In summer 2021, Danielle worked as a public health intern for the Hildebrand Self-Help Center in Cambridge, Mass. There, she collected and analyzed vaccination status data, and provided information and resources about COVID vaccinations to residents. 

The following summer, she was a treatment program specialist at Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, for which she collaborated with patients, case managers, and medical providers to ensure patients were discharged to the appropriate drug-abuse programs. Patient care is at the forefront of Danielle’s efforts, and she spent hours speaking with people one-on-one, learning about their lived experiences, intertwined with their medical and legal histories. 

The NIH Postbac IRTA Fellowship Program provides practical biomedical and health training and research opportunities for recent graduates who plan to pursue a career in the biomedical and health fields. 

For more information about the NIH Postbac IRTA Program and other opportunities, please stop by Benton 206H or contact Assistant Director Trey Spadone at to schedule a meeting.