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Alexandra M

- Research Program Mentor

MD candidate at Texas Tech University-Health Sciences Center

Expertise

Neurobiology, Neurodevelopmental disorders (ASD, epilepsy), Neurodegeneration, Epigenetics, Psychology - Mental Health

Bio

I graduated with a bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from Princeton University with an interest in neurodevelopment and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as experimental research. Throughout my undergraduate years, I have read, analyzed, and critiqued many neuroscience and neuropsychology papers. In my classes and independent work, I have also written literature reviews. My current research is focused on understanding the differences in behavioral and electrophysiological characteristics of mouse models of Autism Spectrum Disorder and epilepsy. I am a very curious individual who loves being active, reading and going on outdoor adventures (especially hiking or kayaking!). When I am not hitting the books, I am walking my puppy, tutoring, or cooking! I am excited to guide others on their research journey and develop their strengths to achieve their academic goals.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Changes in brain plasticity in neurodegenerative disorders

Plasticity is our central nervous system’s ability to change its structure and/or function in response to intrinsic or extrinsic influences. Changes in neuroplasticity are associated with brain damage and disease, and involve a variety of mechanisms, including molecular, cellular, and circuit-level. How might these changes during critical periods in development give rise to symptoms of damage/disease? What aspects of plasticity go awry in neurodegenerative diseases? This project would focus on the plasticity changes in one type of neurodegenerative disorder (of the student's choice).

The role of epigenetics in neurodevelopmental disorders

The field of epigenetics serves as an intersection of genetics, development, and environmental factors. More specifically, epigenetics is the “persistent” change in the level of gene expression, without altering the actual DNA sequence, through regulated mechanisms such as DNA methylation or histone acetylation. Advances in technological methods have enabled researchers to perturb the molecular mechanisms of epigenetics more directly in rodent models, establishing various instances of epigenetic dysregulation in the brain, but much is still disputed and unknown. Some examples of neurodevelopmental disorders would be autism spectrum disorder (ASD), epilepsy, and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This project would continue to examine and review current literature focused on this topic.

Health Psychology - Coping with Stress

What is psychological stress? How do people deal with stress, especially in the midst of a pandemic such as COVID-19? This project would focus on gathering information and data to write a research paper/review on stress levels, coping strategies, and the psychological (and physiological) implications of stress. Stress can be defined as acute and chronic, each of which acts on our bodies and minds in different ways. Furthermore, not all stress is "bad" stress. In fact, a hot part of this research is focused on resiliency in the face of stress. How people respond given their previous experiences and psychological state has been extensively studied, but is always worth an updated exploration and review!

Neurophysiological mechanisms of autism spectrum disorder or epilepsy

The complexity of the brain poses challenges to our understanding of autism spectrum disorder (and epilepsy), a neurodevelopmental disorder. From genetic modifications to intrinsic neuronal properties, critical aspects of neuronal circuitry are often altered in these two diseases. This project would delve into the breadth of literature on the topic, especially looking at potential therapies for neurodivergent populations. For example, a recent paper came out with evidence for Cannabidiol (CBD) as a therapy/treatment for mitigating seizures of epilepsy models.

Coding skills

Some Python

Languages I know

Spanish

Teaching experience

I currently tutor general chemistry for high schoolers. This summer, I participated in Coach for College, a 3-week program during which I pre-recorded life and physics lessons. Last year, I was a volunteer mentor (and tutor) for a high school student in the NJ area. I also tutored undergraduate students in Introduction to Physics and Organic Chemistry for my university my senior year.

Credentials

Work experience

Princeton University (2020 - 2021)
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Wellness Ahead (2020 - 2020)
Clinical Curriculum Writer
University of Texas at Austin (2021 - Current)
Lab Manager and Research Technician

Education

Princeton University
BA Bachelor of Arts (2021)
Neuroscience
Texas Tech University-Health Sciences Center
MD Doctor of Medicine candidate

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