B.S., Chemistry, Southampton College of Long Island University
Ph.D., Biochemistry, Stanford University
Our group's research interests are in the area of neuroscience, with a focus on neurodegeneration and mental health. In the area of neurodegeneration, students assist in exploring a detailed understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in protein aggregation and its role in neurodegenerative diseases. Protein aggregation is a common element associated with neurodegeneration as seen in Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), fronto-temporal dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. We take advantage of biochemical and microscopy approaches to study in vitro and in vivo protein aggregation, using D. melanogaster and C. elegans transgenic model systems. More recently, we have begun exploring the intriguing possibility that long-lived trees, which have a more robust strategy in preventing protein aggregation, might provide important and valuable molecular clues, focusing on various tree hormones and small molecules, for mitigating the effects of neurodegeneration in humans. In the area of mental health, we are interested in how various contemplative practices can change the biochemistry of the brain to reduce stress. The particular areas that we are interested in are the practice of mindfulness and shinrin yoku ("forest bathing"). A similar research approach is envisioned to understand how tree hormones and small molecules might reduce stress through exploring the biology of human interactions with the great diversity of trees found in our arboretum at Haverford, and other neighboring arboretums.