Pitzer Spotlights

2007-2008 Spotlight Archives

Neuroscience Fellowships for Two Grade A Students: Allison Sargoy '08 and Aimee Zisner '10

Allison Sargoy '09

Allison Sargoy '09

I work with Aplysia californica (sea slugs) found locally off the coast in Dr. David Glanzman's Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Learning and Memory Lab at UCLA. We are looking at AMPA-type glutamate and NMDA-type glutamate receptors that facilitate learning and memory. This type of research can be applied to Alzheimer's Disease, as it is currently thought that AD is caused by downscaling (a reduction) of AMPA receptors.

In previous experiments at UCLA, the lab found that serotonin causes an increase in the insertion of AMPA receptors in the postsynaptic membrane. Now we are testing whether long-term habituation and long-term sensitization occur in conjunction with changes of expression in glutamate receptors. In situ hibridization and Real-time polymerase chain reaction are used to determine this.

We are also beginning a new experiment that uses a protein synthesis inhibitor to determine how learning and memory is effected at the cellular and molecular level. My work in the lab is an extension of what I have learned in Professor Coleman's Neurobiology course. My internship is 40 hours a week for 10 weeks during the summer. However, although I will be done in late July, the data I collect here will be used for my thesis in the fall. Since I am graduating a semester early, I am currently writing my Introduction and Methods section and will analyze the data during the fall. The best part about starting my thesis over the summer at a University with a lot of funding is that I have access to very expensive technology that enables me to collect very interesting data. After I graduate, I hope to continue my research in a lab and enroll in the Graduate School for Neuroscience here at UCLA.

Aimee Zisner '10

Aimee Zisner '10

With a double major in neuroscience and psychology, my emphasis is on cognitive and behavioral neuroscience. Working in a lab with direct human applications is very relevant to me. I just completed a seminar in cognitive neuroimaging, and I am excited to apply what I learned in class to a laboratory setting.

I will be working in Dr. Katherine Narr's neuroimaging lab at UCLA for ten weeks. The lab has two permanent research assistants and is a part of a larger division called LONI, or the Laboratory of Neuroimaging. The majority of Dr. Narr's current projects investigate structural abnormalities of schizophrenics, as determined by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) techniques. I will be involved in the data analysis of the brain scans, scanning participants and will even undergo a scan of my own brain. Additionally, I will be participating in several small projects (i.e. tracing hippocampi) that should be completed by the end of the summer. This fellowship will provide me with the hands-on experience that I know will prove beneficial in my career.

The field of Neuroscience is still relatively new and carving out its place in science, and yet has greatly expanded since its inception. It is a field heavily integrated across many disciplines, such as psychology, computer science, philosophy, even economics and business. I think the recent emergence of advanced precision imaging techniques in particular is one the field's most significant breakthroughs. Neuroscience is no longer strictly the study of ion channels or rat neurology, but has broadened to include the study of the humans directly and noninvasively.

After graduating from Pitzer, I plan to pursue a PhD and continue conducting research with an emphasis in animal and human cognition. I am truly honored and thankful to receive this opportunity, and I would like to acknowledge Professor Borowski, and Dr. Narr for their support and coordination of this fellowship.

—Susan Andrews