The thing that Matt Wallace most likes about doing research in Dr Mark Gabriele’s lab is the experience outside of class. “I feel like I am at the forefront, which is really cool,” he says. “We just got back from a National conference and all the scientists I talked to were really surprised that undergrads were doing this kind of work. Not many schools have that kind of opportunity.”

Matt’s research investigates the roles of Eph-ephrin proteins in guiding axons in the developing auditory midbrain, which serves as a central hub in the processing of our sense of hearing. Connections to the auditory midbrain arise from several auditory brainstem centers and have very specific patterns that allow the brain to differentiate sounds of various frequencies and locales.  The Gabriele lab uses transgenic mouse colonies to look at how signaling proteins influence the establishment of these patterns prior to the onset of hearing.

Matt is involved in every stage of the research, from caring for and selectively breeding the mice, to harvesting brain tissue, fixing, embedding and staining it, and looking at it under the confocal microscope. He injects a fluorescent dye into an area of interest in the brain, and the dye diffuses along axons to label projections to the midbrain. This means that, with the help of the confocal microscope, Matt can reconstruct developing axonal pathways to the midbrain and any patterns that they establish within their target. Matt’s specific project involves one member of the Eph-ephrin signaling family, ephrin-B2. By comparing results in normal, wild-type mice with that of ephrin-B2 deficient mice, Matt is able to assess the protein’s role in the assembly of early auditory circuitry.

After graduation, Matt hopes to enter a MD-PhD program so that he can one day teach medical students, do research and bring that research into a clinical setting.

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