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My research focuses on understanding how protein transport contributes to neuronal form and function, and more specifically how dendritic proteins are transported within neurons. Pyramidal neurons of the hippocampus have a remarkable, polarized morphology (figure 1) that underlies the neuron's ability to act as an information processor. Generally, the neuron is composed of two morphologically and biochemically distinct compartments, the axon and the dendrites. The proper polarization of membrane proteins is critical for neuronal function because molecules that comprise the pre- and post-synaptic machinery must be directed to axon and dendrites, respectively.
Furthermore, proper polarization is critical for healthy neuronal function, and disrupted neuronal polarity can cause disease. For example the mis-localization of the microtubule-associated protein, tau, and of the transmembrane protein beta-amyloid is thought to contribute to the neuronal pathology in Alzheimer's disease. Thus, proteins that are made in the cell body must be transported to the proper region of the cell to ensure neuronal function. My research focuses on how microtubule-based transport correctly directs transmembrane proteins to dendrites in cultured hippocampal neurons.
From a technical standpoint, I combine molecular biology, immunocytochemistry, and cellular neuroscience. Another important approach is the use of green fluorescent protein (GFP) to study protein transport in living neurons . These approaches will provide numerous and varied research opportunities for students interested in working in my lab.
- BSc, Northern Illinois University
- PhD, University of Denver
Future courses may be subject to change.