DATE: March 2021
Tufts University School of Medicine | Neuroscience
Najah Walton, Graduate Student

In the Maguire laboratory we aim to understand how disruptions to inhibitory signaling in the brain lead to network dysfunction underlying neurological diseases. We use Hamilton syringes in order to introduce nanoliters of guide RNAs or Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDS) while performing small rodent stereotaxic surgeries. In doing so we are able to activate or inactivate neurons in a cell type specific manner with a high degree of accuracy. Following stereotaxic surgery we are able to perform biochemical assays such as western blot, qRT-PCR, and ELISAs all of which benefit from the use of a multichannel small volume pipette to guarantee accuracy and ergonomic efficiency.

As a graduate student I have the great honor of being able to assist in the training of emerging scientists from undergraduates to junior graduate students(~2-3 students per year). As my own research projects have involved mastery of performing small rodent stereotactic surgeries this is a technique I regularly train students on. Given the need for precision during these surgeries our lab has consistently used Hamilton syringes however with increasing usage between new users the probability of damage to the syringes increases which can result in delays of research productivity until a new syringe is purchased. With this grant I will be able to continue training new students with the confidence of knowing that they will receive adequate hands-on training while still being able to complete my own research experiments.

I have a strong commitment to research excellence while ensuring that my work in the lab is matched by civic efforts. As a first generation Black woman scientist I am very passionate about diversifying the field of neuroscience so that the next generation of scientists do not face the same hardships of discrimination that their predecessors have. To this end, while I am honored by being able to train new scientists in a number of techniques I am also honored to be able to do so while directing a nonprofit group (NE GWiSE) that promotes the inclusion of graduate women in STEM during and after their time in graduate school as well as founding and leading the Black Student Alliance at Tufts University that provides resources for Black students on campus. It is my hope that one day I may combine my passions for research excellence and civic equity in my own lab and with this grant I will be one step closer to accomplishing that dream.


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