Biology, Psychology major James Auwn receives competitive research scholarship

BOONE, N.C. — James Auwn, a junior molecular biology and psychology major from Cary, has been selected for the competitive Fulbright-MITACS Globalink Program. The program will support Auwn's neuroscience research at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada, from May through August 2023.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest exchange program in the U.S. It aims to expand perspectives through academic and professional advancement and cross-cultural dialogue. The program offers opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide.

The Fulbright-MITACS Globalink Program is a partnership between the Fulbright Program and the Foundation for Educational Exchange between Canada and the United States, also known as Fulbright Canada. It is intended for U.S. students interested in going to Canada to undertake advanced research projects in their area of interest for 10 to 12 weeks. Students participating in the program are given the opportunity to participate in professional training and extensive opportunity for cultural, social and recreational experiences while in Canada.

At Queen's University, Auwn will conduct research in Dr. Nader Ghasemlou's laboratory. Ghasemlou is an associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine, Department of Biomedical & Molecular Sciences and Centre for Neuroscience Studies whose research explores pain chronobiology and neuroimmunology.

"I will be investigating an ion channel, known as TRPA1, which has been demonstrated to play a role in the transduction of noxious stimuli, such as a hot stove or sharp pin," explained Auwn. "Ion channels such as TRPA1 are important when discussing our perception of the stimuli that signal for pain. After tissue injury, these ion channels are activated in vivo, indicating that TRPA1 plays a role in the pain experienced after the injury has occurred. Thus, I will be working with Dr. Ghasemlou’s Pain Chronobiology and Neuroimmunology Lab at Queen’s University in order to identify small molecular inhibitors of TRPA1 that may be used to block the channel as a means to treat pain after tissue injury."

A recipient of the 2020-21 Chancellor's Scholarship and member of the Honors College, Auwn has conducted neuroscience research under the mentorship of Dr. Andrew Bellemer, associate professor and assistant chair in the Department of Biology, since his freshman year at App State. "Participation in his lab has helped me develop a strong understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms that play a role in the perception of noxious stimuli," he explained.

In Ghasemlou's lab, Auwn will be trained in a variety of new skills, such as patch clamp electrophysiology, that will bring him closer to his goal of conducting molecular neuroscience research as a university professor. When asked what he was looking forward to the most about the program, Auwn shared that he's "excited to grow as both a scientist and a professional under the expert mentorship of Dr. Ghasemlou and the ample support of Fulbright Canada. Additionally, getting to know Queen’s University and the city of Kingston, Ontario will be a fun and new experience that I look forward to."

Auwn thanked Johnna Reisner, assistant director of Nationally Competitive Scholarships, for supporting him throughout the application process and Dr. Jefford Vahlbusch, dean of the Honors College, for supporting him throughout his undergraduate career.

Interested in learning more about Fulbright programs like the Fulbright-MITACS Globalink Program? App State's Office of International Education and Development, Office of Research and Nationally Competitive Scholarships will sponsor this year's Fulbright Week from February 14-16. The week will feature a variety of events designed to help faculty and staff learn more about the Fulbright Scholar Program and the Fulbright Student Program and how App State can support the application process. For more information, visit


About the Department of Biology
The Department of Biology is a community of teacher-scholars, with faculty representing the full breadth of biological specializations — from molecular genetics to landscape/ecosystem ecology. The department seeks to produce graduates with sound scientific knowledge, the skills to create new knowledge, and the excitement and appreciation of scientific discovery. Learn more at

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About the Chancellor’s Scholarship
The Chancellor’s Scholarship is Appalachian State University’s oldest and most academically competitive merit-based scholarship. It is awarded to the highest achieving students who have earned entry into App State’s Honors College. The scholarship is designed for students with ambitious academic goals — those who seek graduate or professional post-baccalaureate degrees to become physicians, Ph.D. holders and more. Chancellor’s Scholars enter a four-year program of rigorous study that covers full institutional costs (tuition, fees, room and board, book rental) and provides study abroad opportunities beginning in the first year, numerous classroom and experiential research opportunities and academic mentoring in a living–learning community. The scholarship is open to any major. Learn more.

About the Honors College
More than 500 students are enrolled in Appalachian State University's Honors College, which serves a diverse group of high-achieving, high-potential, highly motivated students from all majors. The Honors College helps students develop independent and creative thinking and high-level research skills; promotes interdisciplinary inquiry; and nurtures cultured and caring exchanges of ideas. The college’s enhanced academic experience prepares students for success in graduate or professional school and for leadership roles in their lives, communities and careers. Learn more at

About Nationally Competitive Scholarships
Nationally Competitive Scholarships (NCS) works with the Appalachian community to recruit and support students for nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships, including those that support research, teaching and critical language learning. This is achieved with outreach, mentorship and advising throughout the entire application and selection process. NCS is committed to helping undergraduate and graduate students find ways to connect their Appalachian education to their future endeavors through scholarship opportunities. Learn more at

About the Office of International Education and Development
The OIED is responsible for spearheading the internationalization efforts at Appalachian. The internationalization mission of Appalachian is to develop awareness, knowledge, appreciation and respect of cultural differences in both domestic and international contexts in its students, faculty, staff and the surrounding communities. The university is also dedicated to creating a campus environment that builds the theoretical and practical skills needed to interact effectively in a global society. Learn more at

About the Office of Research
Appalachian State University’s Office of Research provides support for the research, creative, and scholarly endeavors of Appalachian faculty, staff and students. The office consists of four units: Grants Resources and Services, Sponsored Programs, Research Design and Analysis, and Research Protections. The Office of Research also collaborates with the university’s Special Funds Accounting on the fiscal management of awarded projects. Learn more at

By Lauren Andersen
February 14, 2023

James Auwn presenting his research on the role of translation initiation factors in the development of sensory neurons that transduce harmful stimuli at the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium in December, 2022. Photo submitted
Published: Feb 14, 2023 8:15am