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Marisa D

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at University of California Berkeley (UC Berkeley)


Aging, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, Neuroscience, Neurobiology of Disease, Data Analysis


My name is Marisa and I am a Neuroscience PhD Student at UC Berkeley. I did my undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Arizona. My research involves investigating the relationship between blood-brain barrier breakdown, Alzheimer's disease pathology, and memory in aging. I use different methods of neuroimaging for my research, including MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (positron emission tomography). Outside of research, I enjoy exercising, traveling, cooking, and hanging out with family and friends. Growing up in Arizona we had many beautiful mountains to hike so I love being outdoors and enjoying the sunshine!

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.

Influence of APOE genotype on Alzheimer's disease pathology

Genes are one risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease. The APOE gene increases the risk of developing the more common form of Alzheimer's disease, called late-onset. There are three types of the APOE gene, called alleles: ε2, ε3 and ε4. It is well known that having the ε4 allele of the APOE gene is associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. However, it is not well known how the ε4 allele is associated with Alzheimer's disease pathology, such as amyloid-beta plaques and tau neurofibrillary tangles. Research also suggests that having a copy of ε2 and ε3 alleles can be protective against the disease, but it is not well known how these alleles are associated with common Alzheimer's pathology. This project would investigate how the 3 different APOE alleles are associated with amyloid-beta plaques and tau deposition during aging.

Coding skills

Matlab, R

Teaching experience

I was a Graduate Student Instructor for 2 semesters at UC Berkeley for undergraduate students. The classes I taught were The Aging Brain and Neurobiology of Disease. I led discussion sections each week where we discussed research papers. I also have taught Neuroscience lessons to 5th graders through the BASIS (Bay Area Scientists in Schools) program. In this lesson, we bring in both human and sheep brains to teach about the different lobes of the brain and their functions!


Work experience

University of Arizona Maximizing Access to Research Careers Program (2016 - 2018)
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (2017 - 2017)
Summer research fellow


University of Arizona
BS Bachelor of Science (2018)
University of California Berkeley (UC Berkeley)
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate

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