|Jenna Gopilan ’07 researches neural stem cells in mice brains, and presented her research at a recent StemCONN conference.|
| Jenna Gopilan 07 familiarized herself with the scientific research environment during her freshman year as a work study student. As a sophomore, she shadowed graduate students to learn their techniques. Now, as a senior, the neuroscience and behavior major had the opportunity to present her own research project to the Media and Legislative Briefing at the State Capitol in Hartford.
The briefing took place during Connecticut’s Stem Cell Research International Symposium, also known as StemCONN 07, March 27-28. Gopilans research, presented on a poster, was titled Defects in the Neural Stem Cell Niche in Adult Mice Deficient for DNA Double-Strand Break Repair. Political leaders, scientists, academics and the general public attended the symposium. Gopilian was the only undergraduate chosen from 10 other students to present for this session.
It was a little intimidating to present my research to scientists from around the world and our states legislators, but it was an educational experience, Gopilan says. Listening to legislators inspiring speeches, I learned that scientists should take a more active role in their community.
Launched in the wake of Connecticuts historic decision to support human stem cell research, StemCONN attracted stem cell researchers from around the world. The program included events touching all aspects of stem cell research, including scientific, commercial, political and ethical dimensions. Connecticuts Governor Jodi Rell opened the proceedings.
Gopilan received funding for her project from Connecticut United for Research Excellence (CURE) and Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA). The grant funds her studies of endogenous neural stem cells in the hippocampus of adult mice and the neurogenic response of the brain to seizures.
Last summer, Gopilan conducted research at the University of California, San Francisco. There, she learned how to harvest neural stem cells from the central nervous system of adult mice. She was able to use the technique back at Wesleyan in the lab supervised by Janice Naegele, professor of biology and chair of the Biology Department.
Although these are early days in her research project, Jenna already has some interesting data that she had the opportunity to present in the Capital and at StemCONN, Naegele says. Not only is this a very nice recognition of her interesting project, it is also an opportunity to present her ideas at an international conference where she was able to receive feedback from experts in the stem cell field.
Prior to her junior year, Gopilan was accepted to be a Hughes Fellow, spending the entire summer working on a single research project The Effects of Serotonin on Adult Neurogenesis in the Dentate Gyrus of DNA-PKcs Mice. Gopilan will graduate this May, but will continue her research as a fifth-year master’s student at Wesleyan.
After Gopilan offered her presentation side-by-side with scientists who have received major grants from the state, Dr. Gerald Fishbone and Dr. Jerry Yang, members of the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee, lauded her work and offered advice for the young scientist.
Their input allowed me to reevaluate my research and think of new and innovative experiments to answer questions I have for my research, Gopilan says. I would to like continue working with adult neural stem cells in the future. There are still many things left to understand and decipher.
The long-term goal of her work is to repair brain damage in disorders such as epilepsy.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|