Ph.D., University of Wisconsin - Madison
The majority of research in our lab focuses around biological questions in the cognitive and visual areas of the brain. We explore the underlying basis of synaptic development and network dynamics using primary neurons cultured in vitro. For this exploration, we develop and utilize microfluidic and microelectronic techniques. Microfluidics is the science and technology of fluids in small (<100 um) diameter channels. There are a number of phenomena that dominate at the microscale, which change the way fluids interact when compared to the larger scales we are more familiar with. Our laboratory primarily uses the rapid exchange of environmental conditions and the formation of gradients in our studies of neurobiology. With these techniques, we are able to define and quickly change the chemical and pharmacological environment a cell or a region of the culture might be seeing. We use pharmacological gradients to coax neurons into growing their processing in specific directions. While this research is capable of generating significant data on its own, we are also researching ways to combine microfluidics with the planar multi-electrode arrays used in our laboratory. An experimental setup capable of observing and controlling the electrical environment of the neuron culture as well as spatiotemporally controlling the chemical and pharmacological environment will yield an extremely powerful platform from which to study neurobiology.