Current In-Prep Postbacs

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Saul Bello Rojas: Saul graduated from Lake Forest College in 2017, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Neuroscience.
PI: David McLean (Associate Professor in Neurobiology)

“The primary focus of my research is identifying the morphological differences and function in motor neuron spinal axon collaterals in zebrafish. Previously, I worked on understanding protein mutations in diseases like Parkinson’s and Age-related Macular degeneration in yeast and mice, respectively. I have an interest in understanding motor circuitry and the complex motor network in the spinal cord initiates movement.”


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Andrew Fleming: Andrew graduated from The Ohio State University in 2017, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Neuroscience.
PI: John Kessler (Professor, Neurology)

“My current research interests center on glia cells. More specifically, astrocytes. Astrocytes are commonly thought of as simply a support structure for their surrounding neurons, but recent investigations suggest they have an even more profound effect on the central nervous system. Furthermore, I am interested in the interactions of the endothelium, basement membrane proteins, and glial cells and how they are all involved in the formation of the blood brain barrier. Glial cells are vital to the formation of the tight junctions in the endothelium, but the mechanisms by which this occurs is still unclear. I hope to uncover more about this process as it relates to a number of CNS vascular pathologies.”


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Chad Morton: Chad graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in 2016, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Chemistry.
PI: Anis Contractor (Professor, Physiology)

“Recently, I’ve been focused on clarifying the precise molecular mechanisms of synaptic communication in fragile X syndrome (FXS). More specifically, my research involves identifying which receptors and ion channels contribute to metaplasticity and how they are altered in FXS. Previously, my research experiences comprised of the use of stem cell therapy in parkinsonian disease models, neurodegeneration in spinal injury, hydroboration facilitated chemical synthesis of novel compounds and nuclear imaging research involving the diagnoses, understanding, and discovery of new therapies for CNS disorders. I have an interest in the molecular mechanisms governing learning and memory and neurodegenerative diseases and endeavor to continue doing research in those fields. “


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Sierra Smith: Sierra graduated from Lake Forest College in 2017, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Neuroscience.
PI: Raj Awatramani (Associate Professor, Neurology)

“My last research experience focused on Alzheimers Disease and the involvement of calcium release in the affected neurons. I used specific inhibitors of a Ryanodine receptor and measured differing levels of calcium release. Currently, I am focused on Parkinson’s Disease and am investigating potential compensatory mechanisms in several mouse models of Dopamine depletion. In the future I am interested in pursuing the molecular mechanisms of other diseases both neurodegenerative and non-neurodegenerative.”


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Leah Vinson: Leah graduated from a Northwestern University in 2016, where she earned a Bachelor in Science as a Neuroscience major.
PI: John Disterhoft (Professor in Physiology)

“Currently, I am investigating learning and memory mechanisms involving the somatosensory cortex in mice. Extensive research conducted on the primary somatosensory cortex has revealed that it is necessary for the acquisition but not retention of whisker-signaled trace eyeblink conditioning, a declarative memory task. Preliminary experiments conducted in the Disterhoft laboratory suggest that the secondary somatosensory cortex mediates the storage of whisker-evoked memories. Hence, the objective of my project is to determine if the secondary somatosensory cortex is a necessary part of the engram for whisker-evoked memories. Using trace eyeblink conditioning, mice are trained to associate whisker vibration with an airpuff directed at the eye to elicit a blink response. The mice eventually exhibit blinks in response to whisker vibration prior to the onset of the airpuff. This conditioned response is our assay for learning. Using Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs or DREADDs and our well-controlled behavioral task, I will investigate the necessity of the somatosensory cortex and its different subareas in mediating the acquisition and storage of long-term memories. .”


2016-17 Postbacs

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Kayla Miguel: Kayla earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Miami in 2016, where she majored in Neuroscience.
PI: Tom Bozza (Associate Professor in Neurobiology)

“I am researching a small family of odorant receptors called the trace amine-associated receptors or TAARs. I am trying to understand how the TAARs play a role in the perception of odors and the detection of social cues in mice.”


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Luzivette Robles: Luzivette graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras in 2016, majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biology.
PI: Liming Li (Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics)

“My project uses yeast models, which express either neurodegeneration proteins or prion proteins, to screen various compounds for inhibiting aggregation and toxicity. I measure yeast cell growth and protein aggregation to determine the effectiveness of the different compounds. Identifying compounds that both inhibit or eliminate prions and neurodegenerative proteins could help explain the molecular mechanisms through which they propagate.”


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Leah Vinson: Leah graduated from a Northwestern University in 2016, where she earned a Bachelor in Science as a Neuroscience major.
PI: John Disterhoft (Professor in Physiology)

“Currently, I am investigating learning and memory mechanisms of the somatosensory cortex in mice using an eyeblink conditioning task with a somatosensory stimulus, whisker vibration, as the Conditioned Stimulus. I am using advanced and exciting techniques such as Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDs), optogenetics, and a well-controlled behavioral task to investigate the role of the somatosensory cortex and its different subareas in mediating the storage and retrieval of long-term memories.”