I am a graduate student in Dr. Edward Levine’s lab in the Cell and Developmental Biology department. I work with mouse models to study retinal development, and more specifically, the cellular changes that occur in multipotent retinal progenitor cells (RPCs). My project focuses on Lhx2, a LIM homeodomain transcription factor, and the multiple roles that it plays in the regulation of retinal cell production. In order to develop a functional retina (and, by extension, have intact vision), the correct cell types and the appropriate proportions of those cells must be produced. Lhx2 governs the proportions and types of cells that are produced, at any given time, in the retina; however, the mechanisms through which Lhx2 regulates these RPC properties are largely unknown. I hope to identify and test potential mechanistic interactions that allow Lhx2 to regulate the production of retinal cells, focusing on events that occur during embryonic retinal development.
I have been lucky to work with two clinical mentors, Dr. Milam Brantley at the beginning of my time in program and currently Dr. Ellen Dees. Dr. Brantley treats patients with degenerative retinal diseases and his lab focuses on the relationship between gene variants and disease susceptibility. Dr. Dees is a pediatric cardiologist, seeing patients with heart defects. Though they treat disease in different systems, both treat patients with congenital diseases. Seeing the effects of improper developmental events on people’s lives inspires my research, and I believe the experiences I have in the clinic will inspire clinical applications for my bench research.