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Naegele in The Conversation: Are Neurons Added to the Human Brain after Birth?

Jan Naegele is one of 19 women faculty in the country to receive a Drexel Fellowship.

Jan Naegele

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” Janice Naegele, the Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, writes about the implications of a controversial new neuroscience study from the University of California, San Francisco. Naegele also is professor of biology and professor of neuroscience and behavior. Read her bio on The Conversation.

Scientists have known for about two decades that some neurons—the fundamental cells in the brain that transmit signals—are generated throughout life. But now a controversial new study from the University of California, San Francisco, casts doubt on whether many neurons are added to the human brain after birth.

Sustainability Workshop Sparks Discussions, New Ideas

Sustainability Across the Curriculum, a Jan. 23 workshop organized by Wesleyan’s Sustainability Office and the Center for Pedagogical Innovation, provided faculty and instructors with the opportunity to discover ways to integrate sustainability into a variety of courses across academic disciplines.

The workshop featured a panel highlighting work by faculty who participated in the first year of Sustainability Across the Curriculum and had integrated sustainability into their own courses, followed by small-group sessions offering brainstorming opportunities. The focus of the SATC program is to amend an existing course to include sustainability, explained Jennifer Kleindienst, Wesleyan’s sustainability director, “The groups were divided into individuals who are early in this journey (not sure where to start) and those with an idea but looking to clarify details.” Kleindienst was there to facilitate discussions, along with Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Suzanne O’Connell, faculty coordinator for Sustainability Across the Curriculum, and assistant Ori Tannenbaum ’20.

O’Connell reports that involvement in this initiative has broadened her understanding of sustainability: “I now see it as an intricate network of ideas and actions that reaches almost every facet of life and society.”

Kleindienst heard a key phrase several times: “‘I never thought of doing it that way!’ It’s my job to get people to say that about what they do in the classroom and in daily life.”

She notes that the full program includes this workshop along with four seminars later in the semester, and then course integration over the next year. Following that, the faculty cohort reconvenes to discuss their experiences. Kleindienst invites the community to view the program website or contact her or Suzanne O’Connell with questions or for further information.

Photos of the workshop are below (photos by Cynthia Rockwell):

The event's faculty panel offered information on ways they've approached sustainability issues within their own curriculum. Panelists included Tony Hatch, associate professor of Science in Society, associate professor of African American studies, associate professor of sociology; Jan Naegele, the Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior; and Elise Springer, Chair and associate professor of philosophy, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

The event’s faculty panel offered information on ways they’ve approached sustainability issues within their own curriculum. Panelists included past Sustainability Across the Curriculum participants Tony Hatch, associate professor of science in society, associate professor of African American studies, associate professor of sociology; Jan Naegele, the Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior; and Elise Springer, chair and associate professor of philosophy, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies. Hatch noted he had pursued the subject of sustainability in terms of biomonitoring—that is, what elements are now in the human body that were not found there in previous eras. Naegele spoke about adding a module to the course on brain development that considered the effect of neurotoxins on that process. And Springer noted that sustainability is not a goal that can be fully achieved, but a genre of critique that evolves as we understand the ecological complexity of our practices.

At right, Jennifer Kleindienst, Wesleyan’s sustainability director, facilitates a group discussion. (Rachael Barlow, associate director for assessment, is at left.)

Ying Jia Tan, assistant professor of history, whose research focuses on the history of energy in modern China, participated in the brainstorming session.

Rachael Barlow, Wesleyan’s first associate director of assessment, who teaches the courses associated with the university’s new integrative learning project, also joined the seminar as a facilitator, offering examples of sustainability courses designed at other institutions that have proven successful.

Facilitator Suzanne O’Connell (right), professor of earth and environmental sciences and an early adapter to introducing sustainability concepts in her classes, shares teaching techniques that she has found effective in approaching the topic.

John Cooley, who has taught The Art of Academic Writing: The Environmental Movement in American History, raised questions on the seemingly inevitable temporal lag between when companies put a product on the market, scientists discover its harmful attributes and regulators then try to catch up, setting restrictions on the use of the product. (Paula Blue, instructional technologist at CPI, is at left.)

Constance Leidy (right), associate professor of mathematics, noted that she found it important to help students visualize extremely large numbers in order to contemplate the effects of exponential growth in population versus available resources. (From left to right, Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental science; Peggy Carey Best, director of service learning and visiting assistant professor of sociology; and William Johnston, professor of history, East Asian studies, science in society, and environmental studies.

Research Shared at Summer Poster Session

More than 120 undergraduate research fellows shared their summer and ongoing research during the Wesleyan Summer Research Poster Session held July 27 in Exley Science Center.

“This really is wonderful that all these students are on campus this summer and that they are here, sharing their research,” said faculty advisor Tom Morgan, the Foss Professor of Physics. “It’s really incredible.”

Photos of the poster session are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Amber Storey ’18 presented her research titled “How Does Polymer Structure Affect Fragility?” Her advisor is Francis Starr, professor of physics, professor of integrative sciences, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry and director of the College of Integrative Sciences.

Amber Storey ’18 presented her physics research titled “How Does Polymer Structure Affect Fragility?” Her advisor is Francis Starr, professor of physics, professor of integrative sciences, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry and director of the College of Integrative Sciences.

Nicole Dallar ’18 presented her study titled “Forest fragmentation reduces host plant quality for dietary specialist but not generalist.” Dallas’s advisor is Michael Singer, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies. Nicole Dallar ’18 presented her study titled “Forest fragmentation reduces host plant quality for dietary specialist but not generalist.” Dallas’s advisor is Michael Singer, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies.

Nicole Dallar ’18 presented her biology study titled “Forest fragmentation reduces host plant quality for dietary specialist but not generalist.” Dallar’s advisor is Michael Singer, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies.

Will Levinson ’19 shared his quantitative analysis study on “Discrimination Charges and the Labor Market.” His advisor is Karl Boulware, assistant professor of economics.

Will Levinson ’19 shared his quantitative analysis study on “Discrimination Charges and the Labor Market.” His advisor is Karl Boulware, assistant professor of economics.

At left, Kaila Scott 19 and Leslie Maldonado ’19 (center, in pink shirt) shared their psychology study titled “Power of Play 2: The Doll Study.” Their advisor is Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology.

At left, Kaila Scott 19 and Leslie Maldonado ’19 (center, in pink shirt) shared their psychology study titled “Can multi-ethnic dolls reduce children’s pro-white bias?” Their advisor is Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology.

Tess Counts ’18 shared her quantitative analysis study titled “Outsider Candidates Inside Congress: An Analysis of Campaign Rhetoric and Legislative.” Her advisor is Logan Dancey, assistant professor of government.

Tess Counts ’18 shared her quantitative analysis study titled “Outsider Candidates Inside Congress: An Analysis of Campaign Rhetoric and Legislative.” Her advisor is Logan Dancey, assistant professor of government.

Megha Khandelwal presented her physics research titled “Optimization of Monofunctionalized QD for Studying Endonuclease Activity.” Her advisor is Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics.

Lab assistant Megha Khandelwal presented her physics research titled “Optimization of Monofunctionalized QD for Studying Endonuclease Activity.” Her advisor is Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics.

Sylwia Lipior ’18 speaks to Joe Knee, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division, about her biology research titled “Neuroligin2 overexpression in the hippocampus enhances inhibitory synapses and alters social behavior and navigational memory.” Lipior’s advisor is Janice Naegele, the Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.

Sylwia Lipior ’18 speaks to Joe Knee, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division, about her biology research titled “Neuroligin2 overexpression in the hippocampus enhances inhibitory synapses and alters social behavior and navigational memory.” Lipior’s advisor is Janice Naegele, the Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.

At left, Dylan Jones ’19 and graduate student Will Setzer shared their physics research on “Ionization Nature of Tri-state Rydberg H2 Molecules.” Their advisor is Tom Morgan, the Foss Professor of Physics.

At left, Dylan Jones ’19 and graduate student Will Setzer shared their physics research on “Ionization Nature of Tri-state Rydberg H2 Molecules.” Their advisor is Tom Morgan, the Foss Professor of Physics.

Graduate Liberal Studies student Anika Dane spoke at the poster session about her study titled “The Association between Depression and Trouble Sleeping.” Dane’s advisor is Lisa Dierker, the Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, professor of psychology. Dane also is an administrative assistant in the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department.

Graduate Liberal Studies student Anika Dane spoke at the poster session about her study titled “The Association between Depression and Trouble Sleeping.” Dane’s advisor is Lisa Dierker, the Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, professor of psychology. Dane also is an administrative assistant in the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department.

Research poster presentations were made by students studying astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, math and computer sciences, molecular biology and biochemistry, physics, psychology and quantitative analysis.

Research poster presentations were made by students studying astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, math and computer sciences, molecular biology and biochemistry, physics, psychology and quantitative analysis.

5 Faculty Appointed to Endowed Professorships

In recognition of their career achievements, the following faculty members are being appointed to endowed professorships, effective July 1:

Joe Knee, professor of chemistry and dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division, is receiving the Beach Professorship of Chemistry, established in 1880.

Janice Naegele, professor of biology, is receiving the Alan M. Dachs Professorship of Science, established in 2011.

Stewart Novick, professor of chemistry, is receiving the Joshua Boger University Professorship of the Sciences and Mathematics, established in 2010.

Christopher Parslow, professor of classical studies, is receiving the Robert Rich Professorship of Latin, established in 1863.

Irina Russu, professor of chemistry, is receiving the E. B. Nye Professorship of Chemistry, established in 1908.

Brief biographies appear below:

StemCONN Symposium Shows Connecticut is Leader in Stem Cell Research

Stephen Devoto, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, spoke on “A Protection Racket: Tbx6 and the Establishment of Muscle Stem Cells in the Zebrafish Embryo” during the StemConn 2017 conference, held April 27 in New Haven, Conn.

Professor Stephen Devoto spoke at the StemConn 2017 conference, held April 27 in New Haven, Conn.

The annual StemCONN conference, held April 27 in New Haven, made clear that Connecticut’s commitment to stem cell research has helped the state become a national leader in this burgeoning area of research and commercial development.

Wesleyan is one of the founders of the StemCONN conference, along with Yale and the University of Connecticut. This year marks the 6th StemCONN conference, an event that brings together more than 500 individuals from academic institutions, bioscience industry, and government.

“Stem cell research continues to be an exciting and fast-paced field with new discoveries fueling prospects for new therapies based on regenerative medicine for a range of debilitating medical conditions, and Connecticut is at the leading edge of this field,” said Janice Naegele, professor of biology and one of the symposium’s organizers. “A major emphasis of StemConn’s mission is education, and this year’s conference attendees included undergraduate trainees, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. Special interactive sessions over lunch provided a fabulous small group format for undergraduate and graduate students to ask questions and discuss career paths with our invited speakers. This is a one of a kind opportunity for many of our trainees.”

Connecticut passed ground-breaking legislation in 2005, becoming the first state to fully approve funding for stem cell research. The 12-year, $100-million per year initiative has enabled the state to compete successfully for scientific talent in the field and has helped to establish a growing bioscience corridor in the Hartford-New Haven area.

2017 McNair Fellows Present Research Projects in Senior Talks

The Senior McNair Fellows who spoke on April 18 are part of the cohort of 10 who are presenting their undergraduate research projects this year. From left to right: Nicholas Morgan ’17 (majoring in economics), Stacy Uchendu (majoring in chemistry), Hanna Morales Hernandez (majoring in chemistry) , and Cindy Flores (majoring in earth and environmental science).

The Senior McNair Fellows who spoke on April 18 are part of the cohort of 10 who are presenting their undergraduate research projects this year. From left to right: Nicholas Morgan ’17 (majoring in economics), Stacy Uchendu (majoring in chemistry), Hanna Morales Hernandez (majoring in chemistry) , and Cindy Flores (majoring in earth and environmental science).

This spring, the 10 McNair Fellows of the Wesleyan Class of  2017 are presenting their undergraduate research projects at Senior Talks on Thursdays at noon from April 18 through May 4, in Allbritton 311. The presentations describe the research that students have conducted with Wesleyan faculty mentors. Many of these projects also are the subject of student theses or final papers presented for the Wesleyan BA requirements.

The Wesleyan University Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program, established in 2007, assists students from underrepresented groups with preparing for, entering, and progressing successfully through postgraduate education by providing guidance, research opportunities, and academic and financial support to students planning to pursue PhDs. Junior and Senior Fellows do research with faculty mentors and participate in

Naegele Named a 2017 ‘Women of Innovation’ by the Connecticut Technology Council

Jan Naegele accepts her Women of Innovation® award.

Jan Naegele accepts her “Women of Innovation” award.

The Connecticut Technology Council recently selected Professor Janice Naegele as a 2017 “Women of Innovation.”

Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, was honored during the “Women of Innovation” awards dinner, held March 29 in Plantsville, Conn. The award recognizes women accomplished in science, technology, engineering, math and those who are involved in their community.

Naegele is a developmental neuroscientist whose research seeks to identify novel treatments for epilepsy and brain damage. She has published extensively on applications of stem cell transplantation for neural repair, including articles on embryonic stem cell therapy for treating epilepsy and the synaptic mechanisms underlying seizure suppression by fetal inhibitory neuron transplants. In the Naegele Laboratory, a team of graduate students, working with undergraduates and technicians, investigates the therapeutic effects of stem cell transplantation through experimental approaches including behavior, electrophysiology, immunohistochemistry, viral-mediated gene overexpression and optogenetics.

The Connecticut Technology Council received more than 200 nominations for the Women of Innovation® awards. Nagele was one of three women named a finalist in the Academic Innovation and Leadership-College category.

Wesleyan’s Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion; Joyce Jacobsen, provost and vice president for academic affairs; Ishita Mukerji, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; and Joe Knee, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division, professor of chemistry, nominated Naegele for the award.

From left, Antonio Farias, Ishita Mukerji, Jan Naegele, Joyce Jacobsen and Joe Knee attended the Connecticut Technology Council Women of Innovation® awards dinner on March 29.

From left, Antonio Farias, Ishita Mukerji, Jan Naegele, Joyce Jacobsen and Joe Knee attended the Connecticut Technology Council’s “Women of Innovation” awards dinner on March 29.

“I’m very grateful to my Wesleyan colleagues who nominated me for this award,” Naegele said. “The award was unexpected and a wonderful honor.”

Naegle, who came to Wesleyan in 1991, has served as chair of the Biology Department, director of the Center for Faculty Career Development, and as vice chair of the faculty. Her work is funded by the Connecticut Regenerative Medicine Research fund, the National Institutes of Health, and CURE Epilepsy. Recent honors and awards include the Louise Hansen Marshall Mentoring Award from the Society for Neuroscience; election to the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering; and completing a one-year fellowship in the ELATE at Drexel women’s executive leadership program.

Read more News @ Wesleyan articles about Professor Naegele.

 

Naegele Teaches Neuroscience to Tibetan Buddhist Monks

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In June, Jan Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, traveled to Mundgod, India to teach Tibetan monks through the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative (ETSI), a program promoting “the convergence of science and spirituality as two complementary systems of knowledge,” according to the Emory Tibetan Partnership. ETSI was founded as a pilot in 2006 by Emory University at the bequest of the 14th Dalai Lama. Naegele’s journey, which she took together with her husband, Dr. Paul Lombroso, was described in the Winter 2016 issue of Rutland Magazine, in an article featuring many photographs provided by Naegele.

Naegele Co-Authors New Paper in Nature Communications

Jan Naegele is one of 19 women faculty in the country to receive a Drexel Fellowship.

Jan Naegele

Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and development, is the co-author of a new paper titled, “Convulsive seizures from experimental focal cortical dysplasia occur independently of cell misplacement.” It was published in Nature Communications on June 1.

Brain malformations called focal cortical dysplasia are typically formed during human embryonic cortical development and are a common cause of drug-resistant epilepsy and cognitive impairments. One of the causes of cortical dysplasia is improper migration of developing cortical neurons. Failure to reach their correct destinations in the cerebral cortex and dysregulated growth leads to the formation of growths or tubers in regions of cerebral cortex. These abnormal growths don’t wire up properly with other cortical neurons and exhibit seizure activity. In this multi-lab collaborative study, the researchers show in mice with experimentally-generated cortical malformations that there is an increase in growth-associated signaling molecules in experimentally-generated cortical tubers associated with seizures. Blocking this signaling cascade with the molecule rapacycin from early stages can prevent the neuronal misplacement, tuber-like growths, and seizures, but once rapamycin is discontinued, the seizures return. Despite the adverse side-effects of taking rapamycin, these findings suggest that life-long treatment with rapamycin may be required in individuals with focal cortical dysplasia, in order to prevent the re-occurrence of seizures and tubers.

The paper is co-authored with Felicia Harrsch, Naegele’s former lab manager, and researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Support Wesleyan Researchers in Crowdfunding Pilot

Four Wesleyan academic departments, from psychology to dance to chemistry to biology, are competing for grant funds through a new crowdfunding site specifically designed for research project fundraising.

experimentExperiment.com’s Challenge Grant for Liberal Arts Colleges asked scientists to define a scientific research question for the crowd with a prize for the project with the most backers. The pilot launched on Feb. 24 and concludes March 25.During this 31-day period, the goal is to reach $4,000 in funding. If so, the team is granted the money. If not, they receive nothing and no one’s pledges are charged. By backing a project, participants will receive updates, results and data from project creators.

Wesleyan research include how the brain prevents risky-decision making/addiction; the effects of using artificial sweeteners; controlling seizures with light; and the effectiveness of somatic mind-body practices on victims of the war.

On Wednesday, March 16 at 11:59 p.m., Experiment will award the project with the most backers $2,000 directly through their project page.

Wesleyan’s projects include:

High School Student, Mentored by Wesleyan Neuroscience Program, Finalist for Research Prize

Jan Naegele is one of 19 women faculty in the country to receive a Drexel Fellowship.

Jan Naegele

A high school student from New York, who is mentored by a faculty member and a graduate student in Wesleyan’s Neuroscience and Behavior Program, is one of the top four finalists for the Neuroscience Research Prize, awarded by the American Academy of Neurology and the Child Neurology Society.

As a recipient of the prize, Armonk, N.Y. resident Ryan Infante will receive a $1,000 cash prize and per diem for expenses at the 45th Annual Meeting of the Child Neurology Society in Vancouver, B.C. in October 2016. He will present his stem cell transplantation research during the Child Neurology Society meeting.

Infante, currently a senior at Byram Hills High school in Armonk, N.Y., completed this research last summer while working with Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, and graduate student Dan Lawrence, a BA/MA who majored in neuroscience and behavior in 2015.

Infante was initially guided by his high school science teacher to carry out extensive reading and research about neuroscience.

“When he first contacted me, as a sophomore in high school, he had already read 12 journal articles and had written a review paper that he presented to his science class,” Naegele said. “He became fascinated by work on stem cell transplantation to repair the hippocampus in rodent models of epilepsy and he wanted to learn more about the types of neurons that we study, which utilize the neurotransmitter GABA.”

Throughout his junior year of high school, Infante and Naegele corresponded over email and held frequent Skype discussions. And last summer, Naegele welcomed him to Wesleyan to conduct research in her lab. Infante, at that time, had read many papers on a method called CLARITY—a new way to make brains transparent—to allow scientists to peer into the center of the brain.

Infante worked with Naegele and Lawrence to collect a large number of embryonic and postnatal brains from transgenic mice expressing fluorescent proteins that light up developing and migrating GABAergic interneurons in the embryonic brain.

“When Ryan came to my lab, he and Dan made careful observations of the gradual clearing of the tissue and the process of making opaque brains transparent,” Naegele said.

Infante learned how to use a 3-D printer to make special chamber slides to hold the embryonic brains for microscopy.

“This was a clever modification of the protocol and with this modification, Dan and Ryan examined the brains and also modified protocols for doing additional fluorescent stains in the intact brain tissue,” she said.

Over the past 25 years as a faculty member at Wesleyan, Naegle has welcomed 10 high school students for a summer research project. Most of them are still in science–either attending graduate school, medical school or combined programs. Among them is Elizabeth “Lizzie” Paquette ’16, who ended up matriculating to Wesleyan and is currently a triple major in computer science, mathematics and neuroscience.

“I am so impressed by the capacity for high school students to carry out innovative research with our own Wesleyan students and I’m very proud of both Ryan and Dan,” said Naegele.

Infante was admitted early decision to the University of Pennsylvania, and Lawrence is working on his master’s thesis, and plans to apply to medical school next year.

Naegele Honored by Society for Neuroscience

Janice Naegele accepting the award at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting.

Janice Naegele accepting the award at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting.

During the Society for Neuroscience‘s (SfN) annual meeting Oct. 17-21, Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, received the Louise Hansen Marshall Special Recognition Award.

The Louise Hanson Marshall Special Recognition Award honors individuals who have significantly promoted the professional development of women in neuroscience through teaching, organizational leadership, public advocacy and more. Naegele shares the 2015 Louise Hansen Marshall award with Paul Greengard P’77, P’79, GP ’08, the Vincent Astor Professor at The Rockefeller University in New York.

Naegele began her career studying the characteristics of cortical neurons and more recently has performed pioneering studies of transplantation of inhibitory neurons in the brain as a potential treatment for severe epilepsy.