Zoe Christenson Wick

Entering Class - 2014

E-MAIL: chri3433@umn.edu

Undergraduate Institution and Major:

St. Olaf College, BA, Psychology, 2014

Graduate Advisor:

Esther Krook-Magnuson, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience

Description of Graduate Research:

My research explores inhibitory neuronal circuitry, diversity, and specificity of function in healthy and epileptic rodent brains, with an emphasis on long-range projecting inhibitory neurons of the hippocampus. Techniques used in my research include: intersectional genetic and viral approaches to label highly specific neuron populations, electrophysiology including whole-cell patch clamp recordings, optogenetics in slice preparations and in vivo, stereotaxic surgery, immunohistochemistry, fluorescent confocal microscopy, and whole brain tissue clearing and imaging. 

Graduate Level Publications:

  • Christenson Wick Z, Krook-Magnuson E. Specificity, versatility, and continual development: The power of optogenetics for epilepsy research. Front Cell Neurosci. 2018 Jun 14;12:151.
  • Christenson Wick Z, Leintz CH, Xamonthiene C, Huang BH, Krook-Magnuson E. Axonal sprouting in commissurally projecting parvalbumin-expressing interneurons. J Neurosci Res. 2017;95(12):2336-2344.

Graduate Level Abstracts:

Oral Presentations:

  • Axonal sprouting of commissurally projecting parvalbumin-expressing interneurons in experimental epilepsy. Inhibition in the CNS. Development and Plasticity of Inhibition. Gordon Research Seminar, Les Diablerets, Switzerland, June 2017.
  • Axonal sprouting of commissurally-projecting parvalbumin-expressing interneurons in experimental temporal lobe epilepsy. The hippocampal network in humand and experimental epilepsy. Spring Hippocampal Research Conference, Taormina, Sicily, June 2017.
  • On-demand optogenetic control of spontaneous seizures in temporal lobe epilepsy. Biology Saves the World: Nature of Life. University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences, Minneapolis MN, April, 2017.
  • On-demand optogenetics for epilepsy. Neuroscience Capstone Seminar Series. Carleton College, Northfield MN, April 2017.
  • Cracking inhibitory circuits in the healthy and epileptic hippocampus. Graduate Program in Neuroscience Colloquium Series. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN, March 2017.
  • Long-range projecting GABAergic neurons in temporal lobe epilepsy. Wallin Neuroscience Discovery Day. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN, February 2017.

Poster Presentations:

  • Christenson Wick Z, Leintz C, Xamonthiene C, Huang B, Krook-Magnuson E. Axonal sprouting in commissurally projecting parvalbumin-expressing interneurons. Inhibition in the CNS. Gordon Research Conference, Les Diablerets, Switzerland. June, 2017.
  • Christenson Wick Z, Leintz C, Xamonthiene C, Huang B, Krook-Magnuson E. Axonal sprouting in commissurally projecting parvalbumin-expressing interneurons. Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA. November, 2016.

Graduate Awards/Honors:

  • Ruth R. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA)
  • MnDRIVE Graduate Fellowship in Neuromodulation
  • Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship
  • Stark Award for Advanced Scholarship
  • HelloBio Travel Award
  • Sping & Ying Ngoh Lin Award
  • Council of Graduate Students Conference Travel Grant
  • Graduate Program in Neuroscience NIH Training Grant Appointee

GPN Committees:

  • Admissions Committee, 2016 – present

Other Committee Involvement:

  • Inhibition in the CNS, Gordon Research Seminar, 2017 – present
    Position: Co-chair
  • Council of Graduate Students Grant Review Committee, 2017
    Position: Grant Reviewer
  • Science for All, American Indian Magnet School, 2015 – 2017
    Position: School Lead & Liaison
  • Science for All, Mentor, 2015

Professional Outreach:

  • Science for All Mentor, 2015 – present
  • Brain Awareness Week, 2014 – present
  • Graduate Program of Neuroscience Booth at the Minnesota State Fair, 2014 – 2016


  • Advanced Professional Degree Consulting Club Internship Program, Summer 2016

Professional Memberships:

  • Society for Neuroscience, 2014 – present

Thesis Committee Members:

Research Categories:

  • Neural Circuitry & Diversity
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases & Neural Injury


Why Did You Choose MN?

I chose Minnesota for graduate school because of the emphasis on classes during the first year and, more importantly, because of the supportive and cooperative network of students and faculty. During recruitment weekend it became abundantly clear that the students fostered a really fun, creative, and collaborative community. I was excited about the comprehensive coursework because it is important to me to be trained as a well-rounded neuroscientist with knowledge of topics in neuroscience outside the specific expertise I will develop in my thesis lab.

What Advice Would You Give to a First Year Graduate Student?

Advice #1: All the best advice I ever got was given to me at GPN student gatherings – apple picking, happy hours at Stub & Herb’s, around coffee after colloquium, at Career Facilitation Committee dinners… Ask any student any question, and they will give you their best and most honest answer as well as guide you towards all the other people who have had relevant experiences.

Advice #2: Things to consider when choosing an advisor (in my opinion) are: 1) the advisor’s mentorship style (Is it hands-on enough? Is it too hands-on? Will they commit the desired amount of time and energy to you?), 2) the day-to-day activities in the lab (Will you like sitting in front of a computer all day? Do you like having a diverse array of experiments to run, or do you like to really focus on one technique?), and 3) the lab environment (Do you enjoy the company of your future co-workers? Can you stay focused and motivated in the lab space?). I think one of the less important factors in choosing an advisor is the area of research – the research you do in your PhD thesis will probably not dictate what field you go into for the rest of your career, but it will have a long-lasting influence over the techniques you use and master, the way you design and implement experiments, and the way you communicate and disseminate your findings.