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Haley Mendoza-Romero

Graduate Student, Simerly Laboratory, Molecular Physiology & Biophysics

I grew up in Los Angeles, CA. I attended Duke University as an undergraduate and received a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience in 2015. After graduation, I worked as a Research Technician at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies for 2 years where I studied developmental neuroscience in the labs of Dr. Kathleen K. Sulik and Dr. Scott Parnell respectively. I matriculated into the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program here at Vanderbilt University in 2017 and joined Dr. Richard Simerly’s lab as a PhD student in May 2018.

I am interested in developmental neuroscience, specifically how the formation of complex neural circuits early in life impacts physiology into adulthood.  Environmental influences that occur early in life, such as nutrition, dictate adaptations of an organism that will affect susceptibility to weight gain and obesity later in life. The hypothalamus plays an essential role in the regulation of energy balance and is impacted by changes in diet during sensitive periods of development. It is also known that high fat diet in adults causes increased activation of microglia in the hypothalamus. Microglia are known to be key regulators in the development of neural circuits, but there is not yet a proposed role for microglia in the development of hypothalamic feeding circuits. My project is focused on defining the role of microglia in the formation of neural circuits that control metabolic state.