Home Department: Biology
Mentor: Karl Deisseroth, Bioengineering and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
2018 Research Project: Many aspects of behavior are subject to our internal states; for instance, when making a difficult decision, our performance is better when we are alert, compared to drowsy. Susanna’s Stanford Bio-X research will be focused on determining the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie this internal state-driven enhancement of decision-making through manipulation of cell types and neurotransmitters in the larval zebrafish. This research will help establish the cell types and molecules that adapt decision-making abilities in complex and changing environments. The work will have broad relevance for various psychiatric disorders where decision-making is often disrupted and are treated with drugs that target neuromodulatory systems.
2019 Research Project: Animals constantly face threats to internal equilibrium, such as heat or cold, that cause long-term, relatively slow physiological changes by upregulating hormone levels in the blood. Susanna’s Stanford Bio-X project seeks to explore the comparably immediate effects of homeostatic stressors in the brain that produce quick behavioral responses such as avoidance. Susanna’s research will involve genetically modifying zebrafish using CRISPR technology in order to better understand the neural mechanisms underlying these rapid responses. The results of this study could potentially extend to primates and can be used to inform further studies in other animal models.