- BS Behavioral Neuroscience, Northeastern University
- PhD Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California Berkeley
When I am not in the lab, I enjoy backpacking, skiing, hiking, and pretty much anything outdoors. I grew up in Montana so the mountains are my happy place but I have come to love the ocean just as much during my time in California!
I am interested in the molecular mechanisms by which complex organisms, specifically the nervous system of complex organisms, survive extreme environmental challenges. To answer these questions, I use the extremely tolerant Tardigrade, a unique invertebrate clade renowned for its ability to survive, complete desiccation, hypoxia, the vacuum of space, and radiation 1000 times the dosage of other animals! I am currently pursuing three avenues of research in the lab.
1) The resilience of tardigrades to high levels of G-Forces: In collaboration with Dr. Philip Lubin, we are evaluating the feasibility of Tardigrade survival on a relativistic spacecraft traveling to the nearest star outside our solar system. Based on previous evidence, tardigrades are capable of surviving the temperature fluctuations, ionizing radiation, and other harsh conditions required for space flight. However, their survival under high gravitational forces which the animal would endure on the voyage is unclear. We have thus begun to assess the g-force resilience of the tardigrade using ultracentrifugation revealing that these animals can survive remarkable g-forces.
2) The resilience and mechanistic underpinnings of nervous system survival during complete desiccation. Tardigrades are capable of becoming completely desiccated but how they survive this is incompletely understood. I am currently exploring the hypothesis that the brain undergoes a period of fortification during which key synaptic maintenance proteins are up regulated during the desiccation process which allows the tardigrades to survive desiccation.
3) The development of tools and protocols for the burgeoning field of tardigrade neurobiology. As a burgeoning field, Tardigrade neurobiology has very minimal techniques. I hope to expand these technical aspects of tardigrade research to assist the tardigrade community at large.