Meet Tiffany Ngo
Graduation Year: May 2017
Field of Study: Neuroscience
Synaptic plasticity has been studied extensively as a cellular mechanism of learning and memory. Changes in synaptic AMPA receptor (AMPAR) content and function has emerged as a conserved mechanism for expression of synaptic plasticity . However, less is known about how the cellular mechanisms of synaptic plasticity change throughout development. The protein interacting with C kinase 1 (PICK1), an AMPAR-binding protein, has been demonstrated to coordinate both AMPAR expression and synaptic plasticity. The genetic deletion of PICK1 impairs multiple forms of plasticity and learning and memory in adult mice but does not appear to affect juvenile mice. Juvenile experience may be able to rescue memory deficits in adult PICK1 KO mice, but the mechanism of this rescue is not clear, and whether this rescue generalizes across multiple behaviors is not known. The goal of these studies was to examine differences in experienced-induced changes in synaptic protein expression of PICK1 KO and WT juvenile and adult mice after experiencing a salient learning task, and to assess whether juvenile experience generalizes to rescue diverse adult cognitive impairments. The protein expressions in juvenile WT and PICK1 KO mice were similar to each other in the ventral hippocampus in this preliminary study.
Work hard, but not too hard. Know your limits, or if you don't know them yet, discover them.
Going into the lab, I honestly thought I would be producing a lot of data for the lab. In actuality, I spent a lot of time troubleshooting techniques before actually using those techniques to produce data. However, I really enjoyed the experience overall. I was thrown into a lab setting that I was not used to. The lab that I had been in before the Volk Lab was a huge lab with a lot of lab members, but the Volk Lab at UT Southwestern only had a total of four people, including me. Being in a small lab took some time getting used to, but I ultimately enjoyed being in a small lab. I was able to ask my PI for help personally without having to go through a graduate student or a research assistant. Dr. Lenora Volk was really patient with me and not only taught me the techniques for my project, but also explained why these techniques were necessary and important for it. She and the other members of the lab were very supportive and gave me a lot of advice whenever I hit a brick wall in my project.
...sometimes things don't work out the way I want them to and I sometimes just have to move on and do the best with what I have.
There was one month when I was purely testing antibodies for this specific protein and the antibodies were just not working at all. I became frustrated and felt like I had wasted so much time on something that ended up not working. That experience, however, taught me that sometimes things don’t work out the way I want them to and that I sometimes just have to move on and do the best with what I have. The Green Fellowship program and working in the Volk Lab made me admire researchers for their patience and diligence in their research. Participating in this program made me realize that even though I did not want to dedicate my life to research, I still wanted to participate in it when I enter medical school. The field of neuroscience research still interests me so much and I want to help in any way that I can to forward the field even a little.
Even though there will be times when you do not know what to do, don’t be discouraged. Your PI and your fellow lab members are there to support you and give you their insight. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions and remember to read a lot of papers, so you can be updated on the research in your particular field of study. Work hard, but not too hard. Know your limits, or if you don’t know them yet, discover them. Do not feel unimportant or insignificant to the lab that you’re assigned to. You are making a difference for them and your lab appreciates you a lot. Good luck and don’t be afraid to take on this challenge.