Dr. Melissa Rolls
Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
College: Eberly College of Science
Address: 0118 Life Sciences Bldg
Subcellular Compartmentalization of Neurons
The nervous system collects, integrates, and sends information in every part of the body. Neurons and support cells make up the nervous system; the neurons are specialized to store and handle the information. A fundamental part of this specialization is the division into axons, dendrites and cell body. Dendrites receive and process signals, axons send them, and most proteins and other components of the cell are made in the cell body. We study how these three major compartments are established and maintained using Drosophila genetics and confocal microscopy. One of the major projects is to understand how the microtubule cytoskeleton differs between axons and dendrites, and how these differences contribute to polarized trafficking of proteins in neurons.
We also have projects that examine how neurons respond at a cellular level to injury. We analyze both the initiation of axon regeneration and dendrite degeneration.
A WISER student would initially work with someone in the lab to learn about genetic manipulation of Drosophila and analyzing nervous system development with the confocal microscope. As they became more comfortable with the experimental process they would focus on a particular aspect of neuronal organization and become more independent. Ideally, the student would have a long term interest in biology and stay in the lab for several years.