My name is Cara Riffe, and I am a rising sophomore studying biology here at the University of Houston.
Last semester, thanks to my Tier One scholarship and UH's amazing faculty and staff, I joined Dr. Jokubas Ziburkus' neuroscience lab as an undergraduate research assistant. I was assigned to work with graduate students to design and carry out an experiment to test a new drug treatment for epilepsy.
I learned that although research is often demanding, it is also highly rewarding. So, I have decided to continue my work with UH's Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). As a SURF participant, I will work full time in the lab, as well as attend weekly seminars hosted by SURF in the Honors College. My SURF experience will culminate at Undergraduate Research Day in October, where I will present a poster on my research.
I am excited to have this opportunity to focus exclusively on my project without academic classes competing for my time and attention. This blog will document my summer experiences in the lab, and I hope to include lots of pictures and maybe even some videos!
Severe myoclonic epilepsy in infancy, commonly known as Dravet syndrome (DS), is a form of childhood epilepsy in which affected children suffer from seizures, loss of motor control, and social and cognitive dysfunctions. The Ziburkus lab has shown promising results in controlling seizures in DS mouse models through the use of a novel pharmaceutical.
Working in collaboration with and under the supervision of Dr. Ziburkus and graduate students Feng Gu and Laura Montier, I will help test the behavioral effects of this drug on DS. We will run social and learning tests on mice that have either recieved treatment or have been left untreated. The data we collect through this testing will help elucidate the link between the seizures early in life and the cognitive impairment later in life that is observed in those that suffer from DS. Our hope is that, by decreasing the adolescent seizures associated with DS, the novel drug treatment will also save the mice’s cognitive function. Overall, the study is highly translatable and, if successful, could lead towards additional studies in human DS patients.
Thank you for reading and please subscribe if you are interested in continuing with me through the world of neuroscience!