Chronic pain is a massive burden of disease in the United States, especially among adults 65+ where around 50% of older adults experience chronic pain. HDRB concentrator Lyndsey Mugford aims to address some of the underlying causes of chronic pain when she begins her studies at Oxford University next fall as a Rhodes Scholar.
Mugford’s research during her time at Harvard has focused on how somatosensory dysfunction affects neurodevelopment in autism. At Oxford, she’s interested in studying neuroscience, specifically looking into regenerative therapeutics for the nervous system in models of peripheral neuropathy and chronic pain in older adults.
“I’ll have the opportunity to combine my neurodevelopmental research experience in the Orefice Lab at MGH with my regenerative biology studies from HDRB,” says Mugford.
She’s especially excited about applying regenerative strategies to address chronic pain. “Compared to pain management techniques, the goal is to actually address the underlying nerve damage that’s contributing to chronic pain rather than treat the symptoms of pain. This means patients could avoid being on pain killers long-term, which has massive implications in terms of medication affordability, risk of addiction, and overall quality of life.”
The goal of improving lives has been a consistent driver for Mugford throughout her time at Harvard. She volunteers at Boston Healthcare for the Homeless on their case management team, helping support unhoused patients while in respite care. And as the first female president for Hasty Pudding Theatricals, she has helped establish a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club in Allston to start a weekly theatre education program for youth.
“Getting the Rhodes Scholarship is such a unique opportunity to not only continue doing important work to improve lives, but to do that within a community of scholars from all around the world. I feel so humbled and grateful for that.”
Mugford recently turned in her thesis and will formally graduate in March. In reflecting back on the last four years, she has fond memories of her time in HDRB. “From a scientific perspective, I’ve really enjoyed the way HDRB classes are structured to center developmental and stem cell regenerative biology but also make a clear link between foundational science and human disease and impact.”
“Plus, the individuals and the leadership team of HDRB are absolutely unparalleled,” Mugford adds. “The entire advising team takes so much care to build community and support students in helping them pursue their research passions, especially Amie Holmes.”
Mugford credits Amie, HSCRB chair Amy Wagers, and others for helping her get to where she is. “I’m struck by the number of communities and individuals that got me to this place. I’m so thankful for my friends and family and for my professors, my lab, and for the HDRB team. I did not get here alone and I will not continue forward alone.”