Degree Status: Graduate StudentAdvisor: Caryl Sortwell
My journey to pursuing a neuroscience research career began in high school shortly after my grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Over a short period of four years, I watched her transform from being a fiercely active and independent woman to needing 24-hour care. Commonly prescribed medications did not adequately improve her symptoms and often came with adverse cognitive and psychiatric side effects from which she never fully recovered, leaving me wondering how current therapeutics for Parkinson’s disease could be improved to slow disease progression rather than simply provide symptomatic benefit. I entered Indiana University on a pre-med track with a major in psychology and minor in biology. During my undergraduate career, I worked as a research assistant in the laboratory of Dr. George Rebec, using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry to analyze dopamine release dynamics in mouse models of Huntington’s disease. My exposure to the scientific process from the conception of the research question to completion of a study solidified my interest in pursuing a research career rather than one in medicine, with a focus on Parkinson’s disease. I have been able to take the next step in this journey by joining the Neuroscience Graduate Program at Michigan State University and laboratory of Dr. Caryl Sortwell at Michigan State University. I believe the understanding the role that neuroinflammation plays in the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s will guide successful therapeutic strategies. My proposed research plan will investigate the temporal relationship of neuroinflammation, alphasynuclein aggregation, and nigrostriatal degeneration in a new, more clinically relevant PD model that my lab has recently characterized. Furthermore, I will be examining the disease-modifying potential of attenuating the number of microglia in a rodent PD model. My personal experience with PD gives me a unique perspective and drive to pursue translational research, by forcing me to keep in mind the bigger picture to develop more effective therapeutic strategies for those suffering from neurodegenerative disease.