Students in class

Way Klingler Young Scholar Awards support promising young scholars in critical stages of their careers. The awards of up to $32,000 are intended to fund $2,000 in operating costs and to cover up to 50 percent of salary to afford the recipient a one-semester sabbatical.

2010 recipients

Dr. Sheila Schindler-Ivens

Assistant professor of physical therapy

Nobody has ever conducted brain scans during locomotion of people with stroke, according to Dr. Sheila Schindler-Ivens, but that’s what she’s setting out do.

Schindler-Ivens, who studies the rehabilitation of stroke survivors and how the brain adapts to regain walking ability, is a recipient of a 2010 Way Klingler Young Scholar Award.

“We’re trying to see if there’s an actual remapping of the way the brain controls movement or if it’s just the stronger leg taking over,” she explained.

Her work is supported by a five-year, nearly $600,000 Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health. The grant pairs Schindler-Ivens with mentors Dr. Kris Ropella, chair and professor of biomedical engineering, and Dr. Brian Schmit, associate professor of biomedical engineering, who will provide support as Schindler-Ivens expands her research using functional imaging techniques. Schindler-Ivens has already used functional MRI to examine brain activity while subjects pedaled on a bike.

“Now we’re moving into people with stroke, which is much more challenging,” said Schindler-Ivens, who will take a sabbatical this fall to focus on her research.


Dr. Amy Van Hecke

Assistant professor of psychology

Hoping to capitalize on the newly recognized burst of neural development around pre-adolescence, Dr. Amy Van Hecke is investigating whether social skills therapy in autistic children affects brain activity and heart rate.

Van Hecke will use a therapeutic approach, Program for the Enrichment and Education of Relational Skills, on children with autism 11-17 years old during her Way Klingler Young Scholar sabbatical in spring 2011.

The prevalence of autism has risen from 1 in 2,500 in the 1980s to 1 in 91 children today, and the average cost of life-span treatments for a person with autism is $3.2 million, according to Van Hecke.

“We are excited to ask the question, ‘Does social connectivity affect neural connectivity?’” said Van Hecke. “We know quite a bit from animal studies about what social isolation does to the brain, which is nothing good, but we know very little about what social connectedness and having friends does to the brain. So, I’m examining potential change in the connectivity of different brain areas in children who respond well to the treatment.”

University Honors