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Rachel K

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at Northwestern University


Neuropsychology, aging, dementia, neurodegeneration, neuroanatomy, transgenic animal models, histopathology, applying to graduate school


Hi! My name is Rachel, and I am a Clinical Neuropsychology PhD student through Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. I absolutely love the fields of neuropsychology, neurodegeneration, and dementia. My program is unique in that it is housed within an academic medical center and focuses heavily on both clinical work and research. As a result, I regularly see patients, conduct research, and get to interact with clinicians and researchers from a wide variety of disciplines. I am thrilled to be doing research within the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease. In this center, I analyze neuropsychological and psychiatric data collected from patients with dementia. Many of these patients donate their brains to us, and I get to stain these brains for different forms of pathology and quantify it under a digital microscope! I am grateful that I am able to conduct such multidisciplinary projects and hope to inspire others to blend clinical work and neuroscience if they are interested. I am interested in mentoring because I have some of the best mentors at my institution, and I would like to build similar skills for myself. I also love my fields of interest and hope to share this excitement with others. In my free time, I like spending time with my two cats (Sean and Sarge), watching crime/thriller/horror shows and movies, drinking coffee, eating sushi, and running. I look forward to meeting you!

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Beyond Alzheimer's Dementia

Dementia of the Alzheimer's type is the most common form of dementia and is characterized by progressive memory loss. There are many different dementia syndromes, however, and their diagnostic criteria vary widely! For instance, primary progressive aphasia is characterized by a progressive loss of language abilities, whereas patients with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia develop profound changes in personality and behavior. Lewy body dementia is most commonly associated with changes in visuospatial functioning, visual hallucinations, and Parkinsonism. Do any of these dementia syndromes sound particularly interesting to you? If so, perhaps you would like to research the differences between them or would like to dive into one or two of them in depth.

Puzzling Pathologies

There are many different forms of neurodegenerative diseases, which are associated with various neuropathologies and distinct patterns of brain atrophy. Neurodegenerative diseases often lead to dementia syndromes, but these relationships are complicated and fascinating. Did you know that Alzheimer’s dementia is not always caused by Alzheimer’s disease? Additionally, some patients with Alzheimer’s disease develop progressive language problems (primary progressive aphasia) rather than memory problems. However, patients with aphasic dementia may suffer from other forms of neurodegenerative diseases, including FTLD-tauopathies and pathological forms of TAR DNA-binding protein 43. Research in this area could involve an exploration of the brain regions that are most affected by these different neurodegenerative diseases, how this leads to different cognitive symptoms, and how these pathologies look in photomicrographs (pictures taken with a microscope).

Neuroscience or Psychology...Why not both!

If you are like me and have an interest in both of these fields, perhaps neuropsychology is for you! Maybe you are interested in different forms of memory, how to test memory functioning in patients, and the brain areas responsible for memory functions. Pick your favorite cognitive domain and explore the ways in which neuroscience and psychology come together in both research and clinical practice.

Depression or Dementia?

Most patients with dementia develop neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, apathy, and agitation. Additionally, when someone develops neuropsychiatric symptoms as an older adult, it could be an indication that they may develop dementia. Interesting topics to explore may include the different neuropsychiatric symptoms and psychiatric disorders associated with different dementias, how to treat neuropsychiatric symptoms in patients with dementia, and the different brain regions involved.

Coding skills

Some proficiency with RStudio (statistical software) and QuPath (digital pathology / microscopic image analysis software). Both of these are open-source programs.

Teaching experience

I have been a TA for courses including "Human Neuroanatomy," "Introduction to Psychological Assessment," and "Neuropsychological Assessment." I have helped with lectures and grading. I have also mentored students applying to Psychology PhD programs through the Next Generation Psychology Scholars Program.


Work experience

Northwestern University (2018 - Current)
Graduate Research Assistant


University of Minnesota
BS Bachelor of Science (2017)
Northwestern University
MS Master of Science
Clinical Neuropsychology
Northwestern University
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Clinical Neuropsychology

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