I’m a fourth-year graduate student in the department of physiology in Dr. Lance Johnson’s lab. Our lab studies the different isoforms of Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) and their role in Alzheimer’s disease. ApoE4 is the greatest genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, but ApoE2 decreases an individual’s risk. My project focuses on understanding when and how we can target ApoE4 for therapeutic intervention. I use a novel mouse model that can switch from ApoE4 (the highest risk isoform) to ApoE2 to investigate how we can utilize ApoE2’s neuroprotective effects to mitigate ApoE4 associated Alzheimer’s disease pathologies.

Recently, I had the opportunity to present my work at the 2022 Neurobiology of Brain Disorders Gordon Research Conference in Barcelona, Spain. I debuted our new mouse model to the scientific community, sharing what we hope will be a valuable resource. The poster I presented validated the model’s successful ApoE4 to ApoE2 switch and showed the physiological changes we observed as a result. My poster presentation won the Gordon Research Conference Outstanding Poster Award and in addition to presenting my poster, I was invited to give a podium talk about our findings. 

The guidance and support received from Dr. Johnson and many other mentors in the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and department of physiology at UK helped ensure a positive experience in Spain. Science is not always a “win” oriented field. It’s full of failure. Most of your time and efforts are spent on experiments that fail, grants that are not funded, or papers that get rejected. It’s important to surround yourself with mentors and colleagues who encourage you to keep going. It’s also equally as important to enjoy the victories! Celebrate the good data, poster awards, funded grants, etc. and use it as your motivation to keep going (despite the seamlessly ending failures). My poster award was a good reminder for me to celebrate all that I’ve accomplished. The day-to-day as a graduate student can all blend together and it is easy to lose track of the progress you’ve made. While presenting can seem like a daunting task, it’s a great way to reflect on your “wins” and accomplishments.