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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 17, 2022) — For Clare Rittschof, Ph.D., introducing University of Kentucky undergraduate students to research starts by giving them access and experiences in her lab.

“I think it's news for a lot of students that professors run research labs,” said Rittschof, associate professor of entomology in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “A lab is a physical space but it's also a group of people. I have a revolving door policy with undergraduates because, to me, giving them a chance to be in a lab is really important. That's why they're on campus, that's why we're all here.”

One of those undergraduate students is Abdallah Sher, a sophomore neuroscience and computer science major from Hazard, Kentucky, who was selected for the 2022 Commonwealth Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) Fellowship program.

Sher, who has long held a passion for science, but wasn’t sure how that would translate into a future career. 

"If you want to become a scientist, people don't really tell you how to do that in high school," said Sher. "It's kind of like, ‘oh you want to do biology, I guess that means you have to be a doctor,’ but there's so many people behind the scenes doing important work."

As a result of Rittschof’s work, she recently earned the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award for her project titled “Signal to Noise: How Complex Social Information Regulates Brain Genomics and Behavior.”

The relationships formed during this experience in her lab opened his eyes to all kinds of possibilities. 

“Coming into contact with Clare and all of these graduate students that she has in her lab, it's like all of a sudden here is a group of people that want to do that exact same thing and they want to help me get to a place where I can do that,” Sher said. 

Watch the video feature above to hear firsthand from Sher and Rittschof about their research. 

This story is part of our “Wildcats Don’t Wait” series, inspired by the 2022-23 institutional advertisement that demonstrates the momentum our students, faculty and staff are harnessing to propel the Commonwealth forward. 

National, regional and local audiences view this television spot as the Wildcats take to the field and court throughout the 2022-23 UK Athletics season. 

We are telling the stories, through a variety of mediums and channels, of many of the people you see in this advertisement because the roles they play in advancing Kentucky go way beyond a short video clip. 

Each month, UKNow will feature a story inspired by this advertisement. If you have other ideas of people and programs contributing to the momentum of our institution, please email us.


The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.


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