My long-term goal is to establish a research group focused on the mechanisms controlling cell-structures that facilitate cell-cell communication. I am interested in understanding how specialized cell structures such as the immune synapse facilitate cell-cell communication by applying high-throughput screens in the McManus lab. I plan on using high-content microscopy to discover how morphological defects of the immune synapse, as observed in immunological disorders, impact cell-cell communication.

In addition to the structures underyling cell-cell communication I am interested in the langauge of communication. Specifically, I am interested in understanding if functional extracellular RNAs are exchanged at the immmune synapse.

During my master’s I used microscopy to document the neurodevelopmental morphological defects that disrupt normal synapse-cell communication, which inspired me to investigate the molecular mechanisms controlling these cell structures necessary for cell-cell connections. During my doctorate I explored post-transcriptional regulation as a potential mechanism for tuning the genes underlying cell-cell connections in the developing brain. Though more than half of mammalian genes produce transcript isoforms with different length 3′ UTRs, the in vivo role of these is mysterious, therefore I used CRISPR-Cas9 to delete the long 3′ UTR isoform of a gene Calmodulin-1; though this gene is known to play a role neural development, the role of the short and long 3′ UTR isoforms was unknown. I discovered the long 3′ UTR isoform of Calmodulin-1 is necessary for dorsal root ganglion development, thus revealing a novel in vivo post-transcriptional mechanism mediating cell-cell connections.

In my spare time I love drawing and exploring San Francisco.

recent publications

Gruner H, Cortés-López M. CircRNA accumulation in the aging mouse brain.. Vol 6. Cooper DA, editor.; 2016. (Sci Rep; vol 6).