Amy Wu: Transition from Physical Therapy to Electrophysiology
Born and raised in Taiwan, Amy Wu trained as a physical therapist, but later found out that scientific research is her true passion.
“In physical therapy, there was a lot of emphasis on making assessments on patients and coming up with a treatment plan, a lot of what and how, but less about asking the question why,” she explained.
“In science there’s less constraint on the type of question one wants the answers to,” and that’s why Amy made her decision.
Wu is a Ph.D. student in the Neuroscience discipline of the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program. In 2015, she finished Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, then she decided to join UT Health San Antonio in 2016.
Amy said the very positive experience she had during the recruitment interview was the determining factor that helped her decide to study at UT Health San Antonio. “I was really impressed by how much staff and faculty members cared for me as an applicant. Everyone seemed so happy and engaged!”
Wu said her favorite thing about her research team is her lab and mentor Dr. Jason Pugh.
“I joined the lab because I wanted to learn electrophysiology and Dr. Pugh is an excellent teacher in that regard. I also knew that I would thrive in a more intimate environment, in comparison to a bigger lab”
Wu’s research focuses on understanding the role dystrophin plays in cerebellar function.
“Dystrophin is a protein that is first found in muscle tissue. Mutations in the dystrophin gene can cause muscular dystrophy, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) happens to be the most severe form of this disease. Except muscle-related symptoms, about one-third of DMD patients have lower IQ, suggesting dystrophin may be involved in higher cognitive function. Indeed, it is later found that dystrophin also exists in the brain, especially in the cerebellum. However, we don’t really know much beyond that,” Wu explained.
Wu’s research method entails using acute brain slice and in vivo electrophysiology to investigate the consequences of loss of dystrophin in synaptic transmission in mouse cerebellum.
Wu’s research is unique because there has not been much research done on dystrophin in the central nervous system.
“Our work is trying to prove that there may be more to Duchenne muscular dystrophy that it is also affecting the central nervous system and that’s why our research is distinct from others.”
The hypothesis she had come up with is that, “lack of dystrophin impairs cerebellar function which contributes to the motor and cognitive deficits in Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients.”
Wu hopes her research will provide insights into specialized treatments for children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Also, she hopes people will appreciate the cerebellum more because it has been a very underappreciated brain structure.
Wu loves to do anything that would help her destress from her busy life as a graduate student, including scouting around for food shows on Netflix, watching tennis, and jogging.
After graduation, Wu hopes to pursue postdoctoral training, and eventually obtain a research position in the industry.
This article was written by Yi-Ting Chung, communications intern at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UT Health San Antonio. Chung is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Public Relations with a minor in Business Administration at The University of Texas at San Antonio. This article is part of the “Meet The Researcher” series which showcases researchers at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.