Graduate Student, Program in Neuroscience
BS in Biochemistry, Cambridge University
Understanding in biochemical detail the molecular mechanisms of how the incredibly diverse cell morphologies, types and precise cellular connections of the nervous system are established is critical to understanding how the nervous system is built. In particular I am interested in a molecule called Fat3, an extremely large atypical cadherin, which we have found to be important in guiding the morphology of amacrine cells. These are cells in the retina with a morphology that consists of a unipolar arbor of dendrites, the orientation of which is critical for amacrine cell function. However in the absence of Fat3, amacrine cells are no longer able to reliably form their correct unipolar morphology and instead form two dendritic arbors. I am interested in the signaling events that signal through and are coordinated by Fat3 to guide correct dendrite development in amacrine cells. As little is known about Fat3 and its molecular partners, this presents an exciting challenge.