Dr. Shinnyi Cindy Chou
University of Nebraska Medical Center, USA.
My path in behavioral neuroscience began during my undergraduate career at the University of Washington. Under the guidance of Dr. John Neumaier, a physician scientist specializing in psychiatry with a research focus on serotonin receptor regulations of stress, depression, and drug reward, I completed my honors thesis. Using genetically modified HeLa cells, I verified the validity of shRNA constructs the group created for the reduction of serotonin receptor 1B expression. The intense participation in the lab, along with Dr. Neumaier mentorship, planted in me an aspiration to become an academic physician myself, a career that allows me to engage in translational research via identifying significant questions through patient interactions.I received my bachelor education in the fields of music performance, physiology, and neuroscience. The fortuitous combination piqued my interest in the neuromolecular mechanisms of cognition and emotion, and I intend to continue upon this endeavor into understanding the biology underlying behaviors. Dr. Ming Li laboratory is a great fit for me. It utilizes a wide array of behavioral and molecular techniques to investigate mechanisms underlying behavioral outputs of antipsychotic exposures and maternal adaptations. This approach allows me to become a well-rounded neuroscientist capable to designing well thought-out behavioral paradigms free of confounds, as well as employ common molecular techniques to investigate the means by which behaviors are altered.
Under the mentorship of Dr. Li , I have significantly expanded my knowledge in behavioral experimental designs, and look forward to gaining even more vital skills for research in this field, such as microinjection techniques. Beyond the PI support, our wide array of collaborations with other investigators have also greatly benefited my growth as a scientist, as I have been exposed to various techniques that I may one day apply to my research, such as viral and electroporation mediated gene delivery, mass spectrometry, two-photon microscopy, amongst others. Dr. Li great network of extraordinary scientists provides me with easy access to boundless sources of critical primary information, through which I have made substantial progress in the skill of trouble shooting.
As an MD/PhD student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, my medical school training offers a distinctively clinical perspective that I can share with my laboratory colleagues. In addition, I have also been mentoring undergraduate students in the group, working closely with each of them to help develop their individual research questions and experimental designs. I believe that I am a valuable asset of our group and, with continuing training through this fellowship, a valuable member of the scientific community now and in the future.
My current work focuses on two independent yet convergent fields. As my advisor, Dr. Ming Li, is an expert on the phenomenon of antipsychotic sensitization, I became highly involved in this field and have a published manuscript and one currently in the final stages of the publication process. As an independent scientist, I developed a new hypothesis that combined this focus on antipsychotic sensitization and my own interest in affective disorders. Using currently existing models of early life stress, in particular in utero immune activation and early postnatal maternal separation, I am examining the combinatorial effects of these two insults on both the response to antipsychotic treatment in adolescence and adulthood, as well as postpartum behavior in female rats that faced these early environmental adversities. I believe both are highly relevant. First, the two-hit hypothesis of schizophrenia suggests that predisposition to this illness may be unmasked by a second trauma, and my model may help identify whether the potentiation of immune activation risk through maternal separation stress alters responsivity to antipsychotics in animals, potentially translating to understanding treatment consequences in adolescent and adult patients with a similar âtwo-hitâ early life history. The second component of studying postpartum behavior is especially important for me. I strongly believe in the effect of maternal interaction with infants in shaping developmental trajectory, and the possibility of abnormal postpartum behavior as a result of early life environmental adversity may help identify not only risk factors in the development of postpartum disorders, but potentially help prevent or alleviate early life stress for the offspring through offering proper mental health care regimen to these women as they enter motherhood.