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Guest Speakers

Featured Faculty Speaker

Photo of Julian Meeks, PhDChemosensation and Social Learning

Julian Meeks, PhD
Department of Neuroscience and Pediatrics

Dr. Julian Meeks completed his PhD in neuroscience at Washington University in St. Louis, and stayed at the same institution for his postdoctoral research. He then started his lab at UT Southwestern Medical Center and finally moved to join us at URMC in 2020. His lab studies the neural circuits of the mouse accessory olfactory system, best known for its role in detecting pheromones, and how these circuits respond to recent chemosensory experience. As social smells play a large role in the development and expression of social and reproductive behaviors across the animal kingdom; the neural circuits that process "chemosensory" stimuli (odorants, tastants, pheromones, etc.) have a challenging task: to decode and interpret all the possible blends of chemicals that an animal might encounter over its lifetime. The Meeks lab has discovered that neuroplasticity in a specific type of inhibitory interneuron in the mouse accessory olfactory bulb - internal granule cells - plays a critical role in shaping social behavior between male mice. The discovery that inhibitory neuroplasticity occurs "early" in this chemosensory pathway (i.e. close to the sensory periphery) indicates that the brain processes social smells uniquely, and that mouse social behavior is highly sensitive to the balance of excitation and inhibition in the accessory olfactory bulb.

Featured Postdoctoral Fellow Speaker

Photo of Bartosz KulalD-ꞵ-hydroxybutyrate improves hippocampal network stability during acute insulin resistance

Bartosz Kula, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
Smith Lab

Dr. Kula was appointed a Visiting Instructor in Neuroscience at Universiy of Rochester, in the lab of Dr. Nathan A. Smith in May 2022. He received his M.S. degree in Biology from Jagiellonian University in Poland. Subsequently, he joined a PhD programme at the University of Tue bingen in Germany. He has been working with Dr. Smith since 2020, as a post-doctoral fellow at Children's National Hospital in Washington, DC, and moved with the Smith lab to continue the project at University of Rochester. He is continuing to work on a project titled "Protecting the Aging Brain: Self-Organizing Networks and Multi-Scale Dynamics Under Energy Constraints" in Dr. Smith's Laboratory. This project aims to establish a model of pharmacologically induced-acute insulin resistance in the brain and to reverse the detrimental effects of insulin resistance via novel ketone ester supplementation in hope of circumventing problems with glucose utilization during insulin resistance. 
The prevalence of insulin-resistant diabetes (type 2) quadrupled globally over the past 30 years, becoming the seventh leading cause of death according to WHO estimates. Recent scientific findings link abnormalities in brain metabolism observed in diabetes with increased severity of some neurological disorders such as depression, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. Ketogenic diets show remarkable improvements in cognitive function under Alzheimer and Parkinson but more research is necessary to elucidate the mechanism behind insulin-resistance-induced neurological deficits and potential treatments to retain brain function under energy constraints.

Featured Student Speaker

Photo of Farangis TolibzodaHyaluronan in Alzheimer Disease: 
Friend or Foe?

Fara Zakusilo, PhD
MD/PhD Program
Gorbunova and Seluanov Lab

Frances Tolibzoda Zakusilo was born in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. She immigrated to the USA in May of 2008. She attended CUNY Hunter College and graduated with Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2016. While in college, Frances worked in the lab of Dr. Dalibor Sames on modulators of TrkB signaling and optimization of BDNF delivery in vivo. At Hunter College, she worked in the lab of Dr. Tracy Dennis-Tiwary on the effect of curcumin on anxiety and fear memory consolidation. After graduating college, Frances joined the University of Rochester School of Medicine Medical Scientist Training Program. Upon completing the first two years of medical school she enrolled in NGP and, in August 2018, joined Gorbunova and Seluanov lab under supervision of Dr. Gorbunova and Dr. M. Kerry O'Banion to pursue a PhD in Neurobiology and Anatomy, studying the role of hyaluronic acid in Alzheimer's disease in naked-mole-rat hyaluronan synthase transgenic mice. She is currently back in medical school finishing the clinical portion of her training.