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Cheryl Dykstra-Aiello


Bio, Research, Mentor

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    Cheryl Dykstra-Aiello

    Although both of Cheryl Dykstra-Aiello's parents dropped out of high school, they realized the power of an education and emphasized the importance of earning at least a high school diploma. In 1984, Cheryl graduated from high school with honors and was valedictorian, but because her family lacked financial resources, she felt the need to be practical and bury her dream of becoming a university graduate. For more than fifteen years, she settled into the life she had chosen, working as a bookkeeper and quashing her dream whenever it resurfaced. Fortunately, breast cancer taught her that life won't wait forever and, with her husband's support and encouragement, she finally returned to school to become a biology/pre-med major and will graduate with a B.Sc. in June, 2012.   

    Now, she dares to dream of earning her Ph.D. in Physiology. Becoming a McNair Scholar in 2010 helped shape this bigger dream by honing the research, writing and presentation skills needed in graduate school.

    Cheryl will be forever grateful for her mentor’s encouragement, support and knowledge over the past two years and hopes that one day she will, herself, be a role model to students as Dr. Carlberg has been to her.


    2010 Research

    Abstract: Age effects on aerobic exercise-induced reductions in pain sensitivity in female Sprague-Dawley rats

     Cheryl J. Dykstra-Aiello, Karen A. Carlberg: Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA 99004, Department of Biology

     Mentor: Dr. Karen Carlberg, EWU Biology

    Age differences appear to exist in the pain experience.  Bouts of aerobic or anaerobic exercise are known to reduce pain perception.  We examined age effects on exercise-induced reductions in pain sensitivity in aerobic exercise trained female Sprague-Dawley rats.  In a previous study, we found that running started in youth (age 11 wk) significantly reduced pain sensitivity in middle-aged (38 wk) rats compared with sedentary rats.  To examine whether starting exercise at middle-age, rather than in youth, also affects pain sensitivity, 10 rats, starting at age 21 wk, ran 11 wk for up to 30 min every other day in motorized running wheels.  Ten sedentary rats were handled every other day.  A tail flick latency (TFL) test measured pain perception at 5-6 hr post-exercise.  A longer latency indicated reduced pain sensitivity.  TFL was significantly longer in exercised rats compared to sedentary rats (p=0.0104).  After 2 wk, we examined endogenous opioid involvement with the opioid antagonist, naloxone (2 mg/kg, s.c.).  Naloxone eliminated the difference, suggesting opioid mediation.  No significant difference in pain sensitivity was found between rats that began exercising in youth and those that started running in middle-age.  Our results show that aerobic exercise reduces pain sensitivity in female rats independent of age at implementation of an exercise program and this effect is opioid-mediated.  This research was supported by Eastern Washington University TRiO Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program and Department of Biology. 

    Ms Dykstra-Aiello was also selected to speak about her TRiO McNair experience at Eastern Washington University's Annual TRiO Day Celebration on Tuesday, April 3, 2012 in the Walter and Myrtle Powers Reading Room, 201 Hargreaves Hall.

    Conference Presentations/Awards:
    Accepted to present: American Physiology Conference, San Diego, CA; April 21-25, 2012
    Awardee: 2012 David S. Bruce Outstanding Undergraduate Abstract Award

    Winter/Spring 2012 Graduate School Acceptances:


    When I became I McNair scholar, my path toward a Ph.D. became clear and with the help of the program, I have been given tools to get into graduate school that I would not otherwise have obtained.  In addition to learning how and what to do to apply to the graduate program of my choice, I have also been given the opportunity to conduct research and to present that research - here at Eastern as well as in Wisconsin and, in the coming year, in San Diego.  As a McNair scholar, my value as a graduate student has risen because the schools to which I am applying know that I have committed to a program outside of my regular school curriculum, have obtained research experience and know how to write up and present my results.  Additionally, having the opportunity to travel to conventions in order to make presentations has allowed me to hone my networking skills and to make contacts at schools of interest with other students and faculty.  So, thanks to you and the McNair program at EWU, I will be applying to neurology graduate programs to attend in the fall of 2012!


    Cheryl will be forever grateful for her mentor's encouragement, support and knowledge over the past two years and hopes that one day she will, herself, be a role model to students as Dr. Carlberg has been to her.

    Cheryl Dykstra-Aiello









    Contact Information

    Eastern Washington University
    526 5th Street
    Cheney, WA 99004

    phone: 509.359.6200 (campus operator)

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