How do neurons form and maintain connections, and how does the variable activity of these connections lead to thought, action, and, ultimately, consciousness? As a Neuroscience PhD student in Nicola Allen’s lab at the Salk Institute, I hope to slowly chisel away at these questions through investigating the role of astrocytes in the formation and maintenance of synapses. Astrocytes, long overlooked as star-shaped brain glue, have recently been shown to be so much more than that, engulfing synapses and deciding whether or not a particular neuronal connection will form and thrive. I study how astrocytes do this, analyzing and modulating astrocyte gene expression in the mouse during periods of increased or decreased synapse formation. I am also interested in differences in astrocytes across evolutionary time, particularly in the properties of putative primate-specific astrocyte subtypes.
Both in and out of the lab, I combine a liberal arts’ sentiment with a basic scientist’s curiosity and skepticism. I try to revel in the world around me, reading widely and getting outdoors at every opportunity.