What is your educational background?
I have bachelor degrees in both biology and cognitive psychology from the University of Kansas. My undergrad research involved cognitive psychology and visual processing. I received a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Kansas Medical Center. My Ph.D. thesis research was on the cortical control of hindlimb muscles in the non-human primate and involved electrophysiology, behavioral training and surgical techniques. Currently, I am a postdoctoral associate in the Neurology Department. I study the role of the pedunculopontine nucleus (a brainstem structure) and its role in Parkinson's disease, specifically as a therapeutic target for deep brain stimulation to improve gait impairment associated with PD.
How did you get involved in the research mentor program?
A colleague of mine mentioned the HHMI program to me when I expressed interest in finding students. I have a great interest in mentoring students as I know from experience what a great difference it makes to have someone not only spark your interest in science but also teach you how to succeed.
What are you researching?
Basem Al-Shayeb is my undergrad student. He and I are examining the role of Parkinson's disease on gait. More specifically, we are doing a kinematic gait analysis on a non-human primate and looking for changes in gait associated with Parkinson's disease compared to the normal state. We are also examining how levodopa replacement therapy (a common Parkinson's disease therapy) affects gait impairment.
What are you plans or goals from the future?
My career goal is to remain and advance in academia. I really enjoy the university setting and hope to mentor more students. As for my research, electrophysiology is my home. I find non-human primate research to be fascinating and rewarding but I would also like to extend my studies to the clinical side as well.