Melissa Asher

Entering Class - 2013

E-MAIL: asher024@umn.edu

UNDERGRAD INSTITUTION AND MAJOR

Michigan State University, B.S. in Genomics and Molecular Genetics, 2012
 

GRADUATE ADVISOR

PhD:

Stanley Thayer, PhD

Masters:
Marija Cvetanovic, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience

THESIS COMMITTEE MEMBERS

  • Stanley Thayer, PhD., Department of Pharmacology

DESCRIPTION OF GRADUATE RESEARCH

PhD Degree:

Masters Degree: Our lab studied the roles of diverse cell types and non-cerebellar pathology in the neurodegenerative disease spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1). SCA1 is a dominantly inherited neurodegenerative disease which is best known for the cerebellar motor symptoms it causes, but which also includes cognitive deficits and mood disorders in many patients. My project focused on the role of Atxn1, the gene that is mutated in SCA1, and its effects on cognition and mood in mice. I found that loss and mutation of Atxn1 led to severe learning and memory deficits as well as mood abnormalities in these transgenic mice, and that only a small portion of these phenotypes could be accounted for by cerebellar pathology alone. In addition, I found that Atxn1 knockout mice had reduced hippocampal neurogenesis, which could provide an explanation for some of their learning and memory deficits.

RESEARCH AREAS

  • Neurodegenerative Diseases and Neural Injury
  • Neurogenetics
  • Regenerative Medicine for Neural Systems

GRADUATE LEVEL AWARDS AND HONORS

  • Sping and Ying Ngoh Lin Award 

GRADUATE LEVEL PUBLICATIONS

  • Asher M, Johnson A, Zecevic B, Pease D, Cvetanovic M. Ataxin-1 regulates proliferation of hippocampal neural precursors. Neuroscience. 2016;322, 54-65.

GRADUATE LEVEL ABSTRACTS

  • Asher M, Johnson A, Cvetanovic M. A role for ataxin-1 in hippocampal neurogenesis. 2016. Sixth Ataxia Investigators Meeting, Orlando, FL.

PROFESSIONAL PRESENTATIONS

  • A role for ataxin-1 in cognition and neurogenesis (2016). University of Minnesota Graduate Program in Neuroscience colloquium series, Minneapolis, MN.

ROTATIONS

GPN COMMITTEES

  • Career Facilitation Committee, 2017-2018

PROFESSIONAL OUTREACH

  • Brain Awareness Week Instructor, 2013-2015
  • State Fair Brain Booth Presenter, 2014
  • Presenter at a Social Science event at the Science Museum of Minnesota, Oct. 1, 2015

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE MN?

I liked the strong sense of community among the students and also felt that there was a good selection of faculty with whom to rotate.
 

STUDENT MENTOR AND THE BEST ADVICE THEY GAVE:

Choose an advisor you can work with even when things aren’t going well. It’s a lot easier to change parts of your project that you don’t like than to change the people you work with!

 

Melissa Asher