July 17, 2009

Danielle Jenkins ’10 Uses Mice to Learn about Developmental Dyslexia in Humans

Psychology major writes about EXCEL research with Lisa Gabel, assistant professor of psychology

Danielle Jenkins ’10 (Shirley, N.Y.) is working on EXCEL research with Lisa Gabel, assistant professor of psychology, looking at how brain disorders in mice are related to those in humans. A psychology major, Jenkins is also a member of the College’s Division I women’s basketball team.

We are working on an experiment in which we observe behavior, specifically maze learning, in mice with brain malformations. These malformations are called ectopias and are also found in humans with developmental dyslexia. These mice models will hopefully help us figure out more about developmental dyslexia and the neurological underpinnings of the disorder.

My role as a lab assistant allows me to have a lot of hands-on experience. I work directly with the animals, but I also do histology – preparing the brains, putting them onto slides, and scanning them for ectopias. I get to use the skills I have learned in my psychology courses working with the animals and examining the different areas of the brain, as well as my chemistry lab courses doing the histology.

Working with Dr. Gabel is great. She teaches me a lot as we work, which is helpful in the lab and will benefit me in future courses I have to take here at Lafayette. She is very helpful, neither leaving me on my own, nor guiding everything that I do, enabling me to learn how to do things in the lab on my own so that I can be independently productive and gain real skills.

I really enjoy the work I am doing now, especially since it applies so directly to the real world. In the future, I hope to be able to participate in more research projects, but after Lafayette I plan to go to graduate school, possibly for pharmacy or in an area of psychology I have yet to determine.

I am interested in working in a field where I can study disorders like dyslexia and autism that largely affect children (I did an independent study on the early recognition of autism in infants and young children this past semester). I think working this summer in the lab will help me make future decisions on which direction I want to take.

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