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Student Highlights: Danya Adams (COL. ‘21)

Danya Adams is a senior in the College majoring in neurobiology and minoring in French. After graduation, Danya is pursuing an Intramural Research Training Award post-baccalaureate research position at the National Institutes of Health as she hopes to immerse herself in research.

Involvement in Research

Between her sophomore and junior year of high school, Danya took a gap year to research neurodevelopment at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine under the guidance of Dr. Lee J. Martin. Her project focused on understanding the onset of neuronal pruning during development by performing stereology on neonatal rhesus monkey brains. She also assisted on her colleague’s projects within the lab and learned important wet lab techniques on the mouse model including Western blot, polymerase chain reaction, tissue staining and mounting, and protein electrophoresis. From this experience, she gained a newfound appreciation of research and neuroscience. Her full-time year of volunteering afforded her the opportunity to learn important lessons within the lab: how to be a team player, to strive for success but accept and learn from failure, and to be patient, as results may take multiple trials. 

Following this experience, Danya joined Dr. Catherine Stoodley’s lab in the Department of Psychology and the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience at American University. In Dr. Stoodley’s lab, Danya had the opportunity to work with human participants--both control participants and Autism Spectrum Disorder participants. She worked with neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI and tDCS and data analysis programs including Statistical Parametric Mapping 8 and CONN Toolbox. Her experience here taught her important lessons including how to interact with human participants and analyze data using computer programs such as MATLAB. 

At Georgetown University, Danya joined Dr. Haiyan He’s Neuroplasticity and Stability lab. She spent the summer in the lab developing an initial protocol for expansion microscopy in tadpole tissue. Given the pandemic, she was not able to return to the lab in the fall semester, and so she transitioned to a literature review for her Research Intensive Senior Experience project. For her review, she focused on the activity-dependent regulation of a protein that is ubiquitous in the brain and plays an important role in synaptic plasticity, calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII). She hypothesized that given its important role in synaptic plasticity, its synthesis and degradation would be highly regulated within the neuronal dendrite in response to activity. Her experience within Dr. He’s lab helped broaden her understanding of both neuroscience and research as she read over 100 primary research papers during her literature review.

Reflection

Overall, Danya’s experience within her research labs have only strengthened her love of both research and neuroscience. She hopes to continue to research and contribute to our knowledge of the brain and neurodisorders. She feels fortunate to have had a diverse experience within research working in the wetlab setting as well as in the drylab and also having the opportunity to explore different animal models and techniques. She feels that it is important to experience the different aspects of research including but not limited to creating an independent project, working on creating a protocol, performing the research, analyzing the data, writing manuscripts, and presenting the research. As she is getting ready to graduate and pursue research, she hopes that all Georgetown undergraduate students are able to immerse themselves in research and that GSR Journal provides students with an avenue to explore and pursue research. 

Written by Alanna Cronk