Over the last 20–30 years, the field has gained a detailed understanding of the molecular composition of glutamatergic synapses, the site of excitatory neurotransmission in the central nervous system. To date, however, we know very little about cell type-specific differences in the molecular basis of glutamatergic synapse function. I’ve been working in Richard Huganir’s laboratory in the Department of Neuroscience, where my research has focused on uncovering molecular specializations at glutamatergic synapses received by inhibitory interneurons — minority cell types in cortical and hippocampal circuits. We believe this research is important as it could lay the foundations for new cell type-specific interventions to regulate the activity of subsets of glutamatergic synapses.
Questions & Answers
Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work? As an undergraduate student in the U.K., I remember reading papers from the Huganir lab at Johns Hopkins — our competitors at the time! — so the lab had been on my radar for about a decade. More generally, I was really excited about joining the Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins because of its excellent reputation for molecular neuroscience research and because I’d heard great things about the collaborative environment. What does receiving this award mean to you personally and professionally? Do you have any connection with the particular award you received? It’s a real honor to receive this award. While not directly linked to my work, Dr. Taussig’s research reminds me of the clinical relevance of scientific discoveries, and the positive impact of biomedical research. This award has given me a big confidence boost, which means a lot professionally as I’m nearing the end of my postdoctoral training and preparing to transition into an independent research position. What contributed to your project’s success? (Special skills, interests, opportunities, guidance, etc.) I think collaboration is at the core of this project’s success. I’ve benefitted from support from my direct mentor, but also from other internal and external collaborations. In addition, I would have been lost without the help and support of the research assistants, students and postdocs within the lab. What thoughts do you have about Young Investigators’ Day itself, as a celebration of the roles students and fellows play in research at Hopkins?
I think that the event is incredibly valuable and helps to motivate trainees at different stages of their careers. Students and fellows sculpt the atmosphere and creativity of our different departments enormously, and I think recognition of this is important. What has been your best/most memorable experience while at Hopkins? My most memorable experience has been meeting and collaborating with clever and kind people, who have become great friends over the years. What are your plans over the next year or so? Graduating, looking for faculty positions, etc.? In the next year, I’ll be transitioning into an independent faculty position, continuing to explore the molecular basis of cell type-specific glutamatergic synapse function. Tell me something interesting about yourself that makes you unique. Do you have any special hobbies, interests or life experiences? I’m a super keen carp fisherman, which is much more popular in the U.K. (where I’m from) compared to here in the US — where carp are considered unworthy of targeting! There’s some superb carp fishing all around Maryland, and I’ve spent many an early morning trying to catch them in Baltimore’s local reservoirs. I’ve even managed to get some lab mates interested in fishing, which I’m considering a professional milestone.