Fordham University Assistant Professor of Biology Alma Rodenas-Ruano received a Grass Fellowship to spend the summer at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, where she is working on research on epigenetic regulation.
“I’m interested in the neurological events
that occur during what we call critical periods of development,” Rodenas-Ruano said. “As the name suggests, these are critical events that must
happen for normal function to occur.”
Using zebrafish as her subjects,
Rodenas-Ruano studies how normal development can be impacted by changes or
disruptions to epigenetic factors, like a newborn being even temporarily
separated from its mother. She hypothesizes that similar changes could occur in
newborn humans, and hopes that her research could potentially shed some light
on the causes of and preventative methods for neurological illnesses like
epilepsy and schizophrenia.
“Most diseases are multifactorial, and so
we want to understand the exact triggers that make a person vulnerable,” she
said. “We first have to identify and understand the basic mechanisms that
contribute to normal function. Then, we see what happens if we disrupt these
mechanisms — both what happens at first and what happens later on in a mature
Rodenas-Ruano will continue her work at Fordham University when she returns in the fall.