Current Trainees

  • Elizabeth Gould, Ph.D.
  • Susan Greene, Ph.D.
  • Misty Malamakal, Ph.D.
  • Bryan Stoveken, Ph.D.

 

Elizabeth Gould, PhD                       (Mentor: J. Kim)                    09/01/2018-present 

Dr. Gould earned her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Colorado, Denver in August 2017, where she studied the role of oligodendrocytes, the myelin-producing cell in the central nervous system, in neural circuit function. As a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Jun Hee Kim’s lab, Dr. Gould continues to study oligodendrocytes and how they modulate neural function through bi-directional communication. Neuronal activity shapes oligodendrocyte development and myelination; however, the cellular and molecular mechanisms through which this occurs are currently unknown. The first aim of Dr. Gould’s work is to understand how oligodendrocyte excitability modulates their response to neuronal activity. The second aim of Dr. Gould’s work focuses on how oligodendrocytes influence neuronal activity by modulating synapse function. Bi-directional signaling between oligodendrocytes is essential for neural circuit development and function. To study the cellular and molecular mechanisms of neuron-oligodendrocyte communication, Dr. Gould utilizes a combination of genetic models, electrophysiology, Ca2+-imaging, immunohistochemistry, and behavioral testing.

 

 

Susan Greene, PhD                            (Mentor: G. Gould)                   06/01/2020 – present 

Dr. Greene has always been interested in studying the serotonin system and the underlying mechanisms related to developmental disorders and mental health.  This led her to the University of Montana where she pursed a PhD in Psychology with a focus on anti-depressant drug effects. This work focused on social dominance behavior and was done primarily with Betta splendens, a common pet fish with an aggressive phenotype. This work furthered her curiosity in the serotonin system which led her to join Dr. Georgianna Gould’s lab at UTHSCSA in 2020. Since joining she continues to learn more about the serotonin system and how changes in this system are related to developmental disorders such as autism. She has assisted with projects using metformin to target the serotonin system and serve as an up and coming treatment for symptoms of autism. In addition to drug therapy research, projects studying maternal health on offspring health outcomes are underway in order to investigate the link between gestational diabetes mellites and the increased risk of offspring developing autism. Working on these projects has provided great opportunities to study the serotonin system and gain a better understanding of how changes to this system can be harmful to mental health outcomes.

 

Misty Malamakal, PhD                       (Mentor: C. Boychuk)              09/01/2020-present 

Dr. Malamakal earned her PhD in Neuroscience at Texas A&M University in 2017, where she studied how nociceptive sensory input impacts locomotor recovery after a spinal cord injury. As part of her dissertation, she discovered that central blood pressure regulation significantly impacted motor recovery after spinal cord. After a postdoctoral fellowship with the United States Army Institute of Surgical Research studying sensory processing. She joined the laboratory of Dr. Carie Boychuk at UTHSCSA to investigate how central processing occurs in the regulation of cardiovascular autonomic networks. The first aim of her project utilizes retrograde tracing and opto/chemogenetic viral approaches to understand sensory integration into two cardiovascular regulatory regions: the dorsal nucleus of the vagus (DMV) and the nucleus ambiguus (NA). The second aim of her project will extend this information into disease states, specifically high fat diet. Her long-term goal is to utilize these multilevel approaches, specifically genetic models, electrophysiology, behavior analysis, protein/RNA analysis, opto/chemogenetic, and immunohistochemistry, to uncover the adaptive capacity of the nervous systems to promote recovery of function after trauma/disease.

 

 

Bryan Stoveken, Ph.D.                    (Mentor: J. Lechleiter)              05/01/2020-present 

Dr. Stoveken is pursuing two lines of research in the Lechlieter laboratory, with the broad goal of advancing our understanding of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) physiology in health and disease.

1) The impact of SARS-CoV-2 transmembrane proteins on ER homeostasis and vascular health.  Vascular pathologies, including large vessel cerebrovascular occlusion and pulmonary embolism, are well-documented consequences of the inflammatory syndrome driven by SARS-CoV-2 infection during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Like many viruses, SARS-CoV-2 evolved to exploit the ER of host cells to produce essential transmembrane proteins involved in virion assembly and infection.  Perturbation of ER homeostasis (“ER stress”) is known to promote inflammation via activation of the ER unfolded protein response (UPR), and initial results indicate that multiple SARS-CoV-2 proteins robustly activate the UPR when expressed in human cells.  Current work is focused on the impact of UPR activation in respiratory and brain-derived endothelial cells, including effects on tight junction permeability and regulation of inflammatory and vasoactive molecules that may influence COVID-19 pathology.

2) Engineering and application of next generation photoconvertible fluorescent proteins.  Advanced fluorescence microscopy techniques are critical for the study of dynamic organelles such as the ER.  Photoconvertible fluorescent proteins (PC-FPs) are particularly promising tools that unlock spatial and temporal precision in fluorescence microscopy experiments.  Current projects include the optimization of PC-FP photophysical properties, folding efficiency, and photoconversion contrast via protein engineering, and PC-FP applications such as live-cell single particle tracking (sptPALM) of ER-resident proteins involved in UPR signal transmission.