Tuesday, January 19, 2016

URSP Student Michelle Moore Seeks to Improve Hybrid Voltage Sensor Imaging Increases Neuronal Specificity in Targeted Cells

I was first introduced to this project during the spring of last semester. As a newly admitted student in the psychology honor’s program at George Mason, I was faced with a decision on what kinds of research appealed to me, as this would serve as the basis for an undergraduate thesis. Confident that I wanted to pursue neuroscience further, I sought out my current mentor, Dr. Ted Dumas, to see if there were any available positions for an honor’s student in his lab. It was during that time that I was first introduced to the hybrid voltage sensor imaging project, or as it commonly referred to as, the “hVoS project”. In sum, the purpose of the hVoS project is to create a hybrid voltage sensor genetically modified to express a cerulean fluorescent protein (CeFP) localized to the soma in neurons. By localizing the fluorescent protein to the soma, we hope to achieve greater S/N ratios, and thereby be able to better match the action potential with respect to time. In doing this, we seek to further the development of the technology which will allow us to image activity in large networks of neurons.

A typical week in the lab involves performing a core set of molecular biology protocols on rotation, until the desired results are obtained. Typical protocols used on a regular basis include transformation of plasmid DNA into bacteria, setting up minicultures, isolating plasmid DNA through minipreps, setting up restriction digests, gel electrophoresis, PCR, and T4 ligation. Additionally, before the majority of these procedures can take place, we must work on the refinement of our gene design, along with primer design before PCR can occur. Gene sequencing is typically accomplished by the use of large gene databases such as GenBank, decoding plasmid maps, and looking more in depth into the literature.

The unique asset of skills which I have acquired over the course of this project is something that is unparalleled to any other professional or academic experience which have undertaken before.  Furthermore, this project has taught me a great deal about myself, and just how far I will push myself for the betterment of myself and society as a whole. I am eternally grateful for the time which I have spent working on this project, and for the valuable lessons that I have learned along the way. Go science!