Brandeis Inside-Out: Madeline Engeler '16

World of Work fellowship supported aspiring doctor’s research

Photo/Mike Lovett

Madeline Engeler

During the fall of her first year at Brandeis, Madeline Engeler '16 was elbowed in the head while playing volleyball. She fell, then got up, finished the rest of her warm-ups for practice and played the game.

A few hours later, she needed to go to the hospital. She'd suffered a concussion.

Engeler, a double major in biology and Health: Science, Society and Policy, began researching concussions. Of course, she knew all about the controversy surrounding professional football players whose long-term brain damage has been linked to concussions. 

Interested in studying the problem firsthand, she found a lab at the Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute in Ohio that studied concussions. She won a Brandeis World of Work (WOW) fellowship, a highly competitive stipend to pursue a summer internship that enables students to explore career fields, gain new skills and experience the world of work. Engeler worked as an intern at the Lerner Research Institute over the summer after her sophomore year.

She was interested in the relationship between epilepsy and a degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Engeler and her fellow researchers studied the brains of deceased football players. The telltale sign of CTE is the buildup of a protein called tau that kills brain cells and damages tissue. Tau is also found in the brains of epileptics.

The team's research was published online in November in the journal Brain Research. Engeler was by far the youngest and least experienced member of the research team, which included scientists from around the country. She plans to go to medical school.

"I was so grateful to be given the responsibility to spearhead a research project and witness the passion the lab has for research and medical advancement," she says. "I'm so excited our paper was finally published."

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