Blakely Lab

The Blakely Lab

The Blakely Lab: Undergraduate Students



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2014 Summer Students

Six undergraduate students were mentored in the Blakely Lab this summer. From left to right, they are:
- Megan Kechner, Michigan State University
- Pease Odiase, Fisk University
- Jarrod Smith, Vanderbilt University
- Robert Bruner, Emory University
- Sam Snider, Vanderbilt University
- David Roberts, Vanderbilt University
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David Botschner
Lab Mentor: Matt Robson


I am a Neuroscience major in the College of Arts and Sciences, working to determine how proinflammatory cytokines alter serotonergic signaling in the brain. The main focus of my work is the characterization of a genetically modified mouse that expressed an altered interleukin-1 beta receptor (IL-1RloxP/loxP). These animals will provide the first opportunity to eliminate inflammatory cytokine signaling to serotonin neurons that will allow us to identify links between immune signaling and behavioral disorders, such as depression and autism. I am currently ensuring that these mice have normal behavior and receptor functionality, ultimately progressing to studies of the requirement for IL-1Rin modulating serotonin signaling.

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Victoria Hester
Lab Mentor: Elizabeth Ennis


I am a Cell Biology and Spanish major in the College of Arts and Sciences. I am working with graduate student Elizabeth Ennis to characterize a novel inhibitor, ML352, of the high-affinity choline transporter (CHT). CHT is a highly regulated protein within the cholinergic system that has been implicated to play a role in disease such as dystonia, depression and ADHD. My research aims to elucidate how ML352 effects CHT trafficking and choline uptake activity using cell culture and biochemical techniques. A better understanding of the actions of ML352 will help researchers use this novel research tool to study the role of CHT in diseases associated with the cholinergic system.

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Christina Hwang
Lab Mentor: Gwynne Davis


I am a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, and I am majoring in Biological Sciences and minoring in Neuroscience. I am working with Gwynne Davis to examine the role of the dopamine transporter in behavioral and molecular outcomes and serotonin signaling in a transgenic mouse model that exhibits ADHD-like behavior. Consequently, these studies will help deepen the understanding of the link between ADHD and both impulsivity and motivation.

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Austin Mcmeekin
Lab Mentor: Alex Nackenoff


I am a Neuroscience Major in the College of the Arts & Sciences, class of 2017. Under the direction of Alex Nackenoff, a graduate student in the Department of Pharmacology, I am investigating the serotonergic mechanisms of SSRI antidepressant actions using the antidepressant-insensitive SERT I172M mouse model. These studies will aid the identification of mechanisms required for antidepressant efficacy and therefore support future efforts to develop faster acting antidepressants.

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Justin Riele
Lab Mentor: Raaj Gowrishankar


My research involves the elucidation the physiological impact of a human dopamine (DA) transporter (DAT) gene variant (A559V) identified in subjects with ADHD, bipolar disorder and autism. Recently published data from the lab using mice expressing this variant has corroborated prior in vitro studies suggesting the mutant’s ability to support anomalous DA efflux (ADE) as well as reductions in amphetamine-induced DA release. The goal of my project is to uncover the mechanism(s) by which DAT A559V ADE and blunted amphetamine responses occur in vivo. I am using striatal slice biotinylations to examine basal and AMPH-mediated DAT trafficking in DAT Val559 mice, and co-immunoprecipitations to analyzing potential changes DAT-binding proteins. Ultimately, we hope to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms that support alterations in DA signaling that can lead to risk for neuropsychiatric disorders.

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Jarrod Smith
Lab Mentor: Nicole Baganz


I am a senior in the College of Arts and Science from St. Louis, Missouri. I am majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Spanish, with the hope of becoming either a physician or medical scientist. I am working with Dr. Nicole Baganz on the impact of altered serotonin transporter regulation on brain biochemistry and behavior using novel transgenic mouse models.

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Sam Snider

Lab Mentor: Dan Bermingham

I am a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying neuroscience and philosophy. My research involves analysis of the dopamine transporter in C. elegans. Currently, I am exploring how dopamine signaling is regulated presynaptically in this model, assisting in characterizing novel regulators of dopamine signaling that may have conserved roles in humans.

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Nina Vaswani

Lab Mentor: Linda Simmler

I am a sophomore in the College of Arts and Science majoring in Medicine, Health, and Society. I am working with Dr. Linda Simmler to better understand the role of serotonin in cocaine action. Using a transgenic mouse model in which the serotonin transporter (SERT) is insensitive to cocaine binding we are studying SERT-mediated behavior and gene expression. The results of this project will contribute to a better understanding of the pharmacology and neuroadaptions of cocaine.

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Anne Walker

Lab Mentor: Gwynne Davis

I am a Neuroscience Major in the College of the Arts & Sciences. My research involves an investigation of the effects that variants in the human dopamine transporter have on brain signaling cascades. Specifically, I am exploring changes in the DAT Val559 mouse, an ADHD mouse model, in hopes of better understanding the role of dopamine dysfunction in this and related disorders.