DMSC graduate now in Germany for Ph.D.

We recently caught up with Stephanie Taylor, who earlier this year graduated with an MSc from UVic's Division of Medical Sciences. She's since moved to Germany, where she's researching Alzheimer’s disease at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases while attending the Bonn International Graduate School of Neuroscience.

According to her supervisor, Dr. Craig Brown, as Associate Professor of Neuroscience with the DMSC, Stephanie was a model student.

“I've always been impressed with the great care and detail Stephanie takes with every experiment. She has been very productive in relatively short period of time, producing two first-authored manuscripts and several as co-author. Furthermore, she has had a significant influence on the lab’s research methods and direction. For example, she convinced the lab to focus on the role of microglia in brain repair and implemented a new head-fixing system for brain imaging. I have watched her grow tremendously as a scientist, and I am very proud of her many accomplishments."

We had a few questions for Stephanie. See her answers below.

Can you provide a brief summary of your Master’s thesis? What were you working on, and why was it important?

My thesis focused mainly on how diabetes impacts the brain after small vessel injury. Approximately 7-9% of the population lives with some form of diabetes. When diabetes is poorly managed, which is often the case, it’s associated with cerebrovascular pathology, such as microbleeds and impairments in cognitive function. I specifically looked at microglia, the resident immune cells of the central nervous system, which respond to vascular injuries by extending their processes to the site of injury. The rapid actions of microglia are thought to play a beneficial role in vascular repair, since inhibiting these responses can exacerbate injury. Using two-photon in vivo imaging in a mouse model of diabetes, we showed that chronic uncontrolled hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) led to decreased microglial process accumulation around the site of microvascular injury and increased leakage of fluorescent dyes from the damaged vessel 30 minutes after induction of the bleed. Importantly, this impaired microglial and vascular response could be partially mitigated with tight control of blood glucose levels with insulin. These results may help explain why poorly controlled diabetes is associated with a greater risk of cerebrovascular dysfunction and cognitive decline.

What was the experience like working in the DMSC at UVic?

I was lucky to work with a great group of people in the DMSC. The open concept of the lab space encouraged collaboration and close relationships with students and supervisors from other labs. It was nice knowing that, if needed, there were always people around to help. Dr. Patrick Nahirney even let me use his computer space while I was writing my thesis, since it was quieter than our lab.

What was it like to work with Dr. Craig Brown?

I was lucky to have Dr. Brown as a supervisor for the past four years. Before starting my Masters, I actually worked as a technician in his lab for a few years, where I was fortunate to learn many techniques that will help me in my new lab. We worked well together, and there was never a time when I couldn’t go to him for help. He is very active and present, which you don’t always get from a supervisor. We’d sometimes spend hours side-by-side planning or analyzing the data for my thesis.

This August, you are heading to Germany to complete a Ph.D. Congratulations! What are you most looking forward to?

Thank you! I am very excited for the opportunity. I’m looking forward to learning a new disease model and working in a research facility with many of my neuroscience idols.