1) Tell me the story of when you realized you were passionate about science.
I honestly can’t remember a time before I was passionate about science. In early childhood, as I expect most children do, I had a fascination with discovering the world around me. I guess the difference is that this fascination never really ceased. When I was a pre-teen, my parents gave me my first microscope and I remember cutting my knee while playing outside and putting my own blood on a slide to look at it. I saw my very own blood cells and this catapulted me further into my desire to pursue science. The continuing years taking science classes and continuing to read and discover things on my own throughout high school and undergraduate school continued to amplify my love for science until I realized one day that I never wanted to stop discovering – that I wanted science to be my career.
2) Please tell me about yourself, why did you pick UT Health San Antonio, and your program.
I was born and raised in New Braunfels, TX – just down the road from San Antonio. I went to Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, TX for my undergraduate studies and I am continually thankful for the education I received there. The small classes and dedicated faculty were incredibly instrumental in my training. When I was applying to graduate school, I was thrilled to discover that such a high caliber institution was so close to where my parents live. Family is really important to me and the ability to stay close to them while continuing to pursue my Ph.D. at such a highly regarded organization was a dream come true. The IBMS program at UT Health San Antonio has exceeded my expectations in many ways to provide me with the training I need to continue my education. I loved the first semester’s large integrated course that allowed me to get a peek into the variety of fields that biomedical research encompasses. I am so thankful I chose Cell Biology, Genetics and Molecular Medicine (CGM) as my discipline because it has allowed me to custom-fit the courses I need for my research interests.
3) Tell me about your research. Why are you passionate about your research topic? How did you first become interested in it?
I am really interested in discovering novel therapeutics to combat neurodegenerative diseases and brain aging. More specifically, I am studying the role of a protein called LRP1 in neural stem cells. Neural stem cells have been established as important regulators of neurodegeneration and our lab’s work is the first to show that LRP1 may play a vital role in regulating neural stem cell function. Additionally, LRP1 has been thought to also play a role in neurodegenerative disease, but thus far elucidating the mechanism by which it does so is yet undetermined.
I became interested in this topic over time. I have always had an inclination toward understanding the nervous system, but as I learned about the devastation neurodegenerative diseases leave in their wake and the projections for our future if better therapeutics are not discovered, I became explicitly intrigued.
4) What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is your topic important?
I know the statistics are not kind and the chances are that whomever is reading this has been touched by neurodegenerative disease in some way or another. Whenever I hear about people suffering because of these diseases, my heart hurts and I want to tell them that help is on the way. I want them to know that so many people’s minds are working to try to ease their suffering.
Neurodegenerative disease is a problem our world needs to solve. We have an aging population and if trends continue without some sort of intervention, we will be fighting a healthcare crisis unlike anything we have ever faced. Scientific discovery is our best chance at combatting it.
5) Are you apart of any organizations/student clubs that you are passionate about?
6) What do you like most about being at UT Health San Antonio or your program?
I love UT Health San Antonio for a lot of reasons. First, I am in a lab that is housed in a clinical department – Neurosurgery. My exposure to clinicians is incredibly helpful in understanding how my research may eventually translate to the clinic. I know that my experience with this is not isolated as we at UT Health San Antonio have access to so much in the way of translational training. Additionally, the close relationship UT Health San Antonio has with the Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital has also allowed me to contribute to research that will specifically benefit our country’s veterans. This in particular has been a meaningful experience for me. I am also super thankful for my lab. My entire lab is amazing and my mentor has done a great job establishing a healthy workplace environment that fosters quality science.
7) What do you like to do outside of graduate school?
Most of my favorite hobbies include some kind of outdoor activities or spending time with loved ones. I love my evening walks in the park or at The Pearl near our house in downtown San Antonio with my husband, Sam, my two dogs Leela and Fry after work. I also love to go to New Braunfels on the weekends to spend time with my family and friends in my hometown. My husband and I also enjoy working on home improvement projects, reading, playing video/board games and traveling together.
8) What’s next?
I know that I plan to go for a post-doc, but I am not completely decided on a career path as of now. I can see myself being a PI at a research-intensive institution, but I can also envision a less traditional career choice. My true ambitions are to fully utilize the resources at my disposal so that I may be an integral part of discoveries that will positively impact the health and well-being of humanity.
This article was written by Charlotte Anthony, marketing specialist at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UT Health 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.