I graduated from the University of Colorado-Boulder in 2000 with degrees in Biology and Psychology, during which time I worked in the laboratory of Allan Collins investigating the function of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in mouse models of addiction. I performed my doctorate work at UNC in Larysa Pevny’s lab looking at the role of SOX2 in the regulation of neural stem cells and, after graduation, continued in the lab examining the function of SOX2 in oligodendrogenesis and myelination. In 2012, I joined the Snider lab where I am currently investigating the role MAPK/ERK signaling in basal ganglia function.
The basal ganglia (BG) nuclei coordinate a vast array of psychomotor behaviors including movement control, habitual learning, and reward-associated processes. Two primary neuroanatomical circuits in the BG, the direct and indirect pathways, provide opposing control over these behaviors. The motor deficits observed in a number of human neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, are the result of dysregulation of either or both of these pathways. Using mouse genetic models, I can recapitulate many of the motor phenotypes observed in these disorders by selectively manipulating the ERK/MAPK signal transduction pathway in direct or indirect pathway neurons. Currently I am examining the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which ERK/MAPK signaling modulates direct/indirect pathway activity.
2006-2009: Kirschstein NRSA Predoctoral Fellowship