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Student Spotlight

Allen Zhou picture

Class of 2017

Hometown: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Current Research: I am currently working with Dr. Anne West in Duke’s Department of Neurobiology on using CRISPR to investigate the role of epigenetic modifications, such as histone acetylation and methylation, in the regulation of immediate early genes (IEGs). IEGs are important in mediating neuronal plasticity following external environmental stimuli, and my research provides insight into understanding mechanisms of synaptic plasticity, learning, memory, and drug addiction.

My thoughts on neuroscience education:  I love that the neuroscience major at Duke is interdisciplinary – interfacing my interests in aspects of biology, psychology, biochemistry, and other sciences. One of my favorite neuroscience classes has been “Brain and Behavior” with Dr. Kafui Dzirasa because it brought together my desire to understand both underlying neurobiological mechanisms and behavior. It was an incredible experience to be able to connect something as mechanistic and cellular such as the death of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra to specific symptoms of Parkinson’s disease like bradykinesia and tremors.

What jump-starts my brain: The fact that the brain is essentially the essence of who we are and that I’m able to study it really fascinates me. When I’m studying the brain, whether through research or in a class, I feel as though I’m learning about myself, such as how I think or how my brain circuits are firing in response to some stimuli. There’s never a dull moment for me because studying myself never becomes boring!