DATE: JULY 2018
Trinity University | Biology
Assistant Professor | Trinity University
My lab does stereotaxic injections of adeno-associated virus into mouse brains. We deliver nanoliter quantities of virus to label a neuronal nucleus deep in the brain with green fluorescent protein and a light-operated cation channel. A stereotaxic apparatus is a surgical platform that orients the head of a mouse in three-dimensional space so we can accurately and precisely target a brain structure through a tiny hole made in the animal’s skull. The mouse is under general anesthesia throughout the procedure and lives after the procedure is completed. These syringes are instrumental in our research. The syringe pump has been designed to interface with our precise stereotaxic apparatus and these syringes to allow for precise targeting of neuronal structures deep in the mouse brain. When this is done correctly, my students are able to activate synapses from the labeled brain nucleus. These syringes also cause minimal damage as they enter the brain because of the small diameter of the needle.
Trinity University is a small, liberal arts and science, primarily undergraduate university. Trinity has a longstanding reputation for being research active. Faculty continue to pursue research questions with undergraduate students working alongside faculty as colleagues. This enables students to experience research first hand. In some cases, this inspires a student to go to graduate school or want to pursue medical research as a doctor. Regardless of outcome, students gain an understanding of how experiments are done and how that increases our scientific understanding of the world.
In my lab, I am studying the effects of cocaine on synapses in the brain. Using the injection of virus in the brain, my students and I can visualize and activate specific neural circuits in the brain. We use this to identify how cocaine is changing the brain and methods of reversing these effects. This research is cutting edge and is generally thought to be the purview of large research institutions. Thus, Neuroscience and Biology majors at Trinity are able to experience and participate in this research, giving them an understanding for how the field of drug addiction is trying to fight back against the health crisis currently plaguing the U.S.
I am finishing my second year at Trinity as an assistant professor and am nearing the end of the startup funds for my lab. This grant will allow my lab to stay operational until my first grant is funded. My students present our work at national and local meetings, and we are currently working towards our first publication.
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