Last year, you were one of the Massey TBI Grand Challenge winners. Can you tell us a little about your project and give us an update on your progress?
We use detailed biophysical modeling of neurons to predict what drugs can best treat TBI during the golden hours immediately after the injury. Our current work is testing a combination of two pre-existing drugs to see if they can offer improved neuroprotection after a brain injury in rodents, with promising preliminary results so far.
Your background is in psychology and biomedical engineering. How did you become so interested in TBI research?
I am a neuroscientist by training with an additional background in computer science. After completing my PhD, I moved to Mass. General Hospital to work with epilepsy patients and study the single neuron dynamics of seizures. This started me on a trajectory to understand how neuronal biophysics are altered during different phases of seizures. After starting my faculty position here at U-M, I realized that there were a number of connections between my work on epilepsy and the neural states seen in TBI.
As a Grand Challenge winner who's background isn't in medicine, what advice would you give to other "outsiders" who are considering applying?
It is clear that a combination of many different skill sets and expertise is needed to treat brain injuries. This means that there is a lot of room for innovative multi-disciplinary ideas and insight from basic scientists working in the life and physical sciences. Though I am not a clinician, I have spent over 4 years working with epilepsy patients in the hospital setting, and strongly recommend getting experience in the clinical setting to other basic scientists. This kind of clinical experience can help you make better connections between basic and translational science, and help to see how our basic research can be harnessed to better help and treat patients.
February is winding down quickly, which means spring can't be too far away! Do you have any fun trips or activities planned for the warmer weather?
This will be just our second full summer in Michigan, so we are looking forward to heading up north for the first time this summer. We plan to visit Traverse City and surrounding areas to explore the state with our two toddlers.