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Two graduate students win scholarships for study of aging

Greg Jaeger, News Bureau
(217) 333-1085;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Two University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign graduate students have won the 2003-2004 Paul D. Doolen graduate scholarships for the study of aging. Each will receive $4,000 to continue his studies in the field of gerontology.

Kirk Erickson of Champaign, winner of the Doolen award in behavioral social sciences, is pursing a doctorate in biopsychology. His research examines the decline in cognitive functions such as memory and attention in adults more than 60 years old. Erickson will focus his research on the impact of cognitive training and cardiovascular fitness training on the neural mechanisms of the adult brain. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Marquette University.

Jason O’Connor of Mahomet, Ill., winner of the Doolen award in biological-biomedical sciences, is pursuing a doctorate in animal sciences/pathology. His research will examine the mechanism by which Type 2 diabetes mellitus augments and exacerbates cerebrovascular disease. Both diseases are critical age-associated disorders that reduce longevity and quality of life, affecting the growing elderly population. O’Connor believes that a better understanding of the relationship between the two diseases will allow for the development of more effective treatments and therapies. He received his bachelor’s degree in animal sciences from Illinois.

The Doolen Scholarship is awarded annually to graduate students in their second year of study or beyond whose principal scholarly interest is in the field of aging. The scholarship was established in 1986 by an endowment from the Retirement Research Foundation, Oak Park, Ill., to honor the late Paul D. Doolen, a longtime member of the foundation’s board of directors and a 1927 Illinois graduate.