Understanding Neurons' Mysteries
Nothing is ever stagnant,” says Lauren Blachorsky, a Macaulay Honors College at Queens College junior who was named a 2014 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar. “When you stick a tiny glass pipette into a live neuron and record what it’s doing as it sends and receives information, that’s unbelievably fascinating.”
Congress created the highly competitive Goldwater awards to ensure a continuing source of scientists, mathematicians and engineers.
Blachorsky, a student in the Queens College Neuroscience Honors Program with a biology concentration, has conducted laboratory research since her freshman year.
Her research with Queens associate professor Carolyn Pytte and Hunter College professor Cheryl Harding investigated how mice are cognitively and behaviorally affected by exposure to mold. Blachorsky is involved in investigating the inflammatory response that results from the mold exposure, a topic with significant implications for humans because 30 to 40 percent of American buildings are estimated to be moldy.
She also has worked with Queens professor Joshua Brumberg, using the electrical physiology skills learned in a summer internship at MIT to stimulate individual neurons as part of his investigation of pyramidal neurons, which may play important roles in advanced cognitive functions.
In the summer of 2014, she expects to be at Rockefeller University working with stem cells.
“I’ve met people who wrote the textbooks and who had performed the experiments in the textbooks. I’ve realized that the research they’re presenting on now won’t be in textbooks for another 10 years, and that’s really cool,” she says.
Blachorsky looks forward to a career in neuroscience, either as a Ph.D. or as an M.D./Ph.D. “The brain makes you you. No one’s neurons are the same, and the way they perform is different in every person. I love getting closer to understanding why people are the way they are,” she says.
Congress established the Barry Goldwater Scholarship program in 1986 to honor the long-time senator by providing a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue research careers.