The scientist: Joyce DeLeo, Ph.D. (right)
Her titles: Irene Heinz Given Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology and of Anesthesiology; Director of the Neuroscience Center
Joined the faculty: 1989
What qualities do you look for in undergrads for your lab?
I set a high bar. I interview each candidate to make sure they are truly interested in research—versus a short experience for medical school applications—and are committed to the time it takes both technically and intellectually. I ask what other activities they're involved in to gauge their ability to spend quality time in the lab.
What are the benefits of having undergrads in your lab?
We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with undergrads, graduate students, postdocs, junior faculty, etc. Each group brings a distinct enthusiasm and passion to our research.
Did you work in a lab when you were an undergrad?
I had a limited experience doing literature searches for biology professors. I attended a large New York state school, SUNY at Albany, where there were few opportunities to do actual research. Dartmouth undergrads are lucky to be exposed to labs where they can actually contribute, and we're lucky to have such stellar students to work with!
What are the challenges of having undergrads in your lab?
I thoroughly enjoy mentoring students if they are motivated and committed. Challenges arise if there is a disconnect between the principal investigator's and the student's expectations. Some undergrads are overcommitted with other activities. Research is very expensive; this is not like an organic chemistry lab where we know the answer before doing the experiment.
The student: Matthew Alkaitis '09 (left)
Major: Biology, with a focus on human biology
Hometown: Arnold, Md.
Joined the DeLeo lab: Summer 2007
What are your career goals?
After I graduate, I plan to take a year off to travel the world with two of my best friends from Dartmouth. Eventually, I hope to enter medical school or an M.D.-Ph.D program.
What got you interested in science?
When I was young I loved nature and the outdoors. I think this translated into a
fascination with the precision and complexity of living systems and led me to study science and medicine.
What drew you to the DeLeo lab?
After interviewing with Joyce DeLeo, I could tell that the level of expertise and general friendliness she and the other members of her lab brought to the table would make it a worthwhile experience.
What's the most exciting aspect of the research process?
Presenting and discussing results and ideas. Dr. DeLeo has worked hard to give me opportunities to discuss experimental design, present data to the lab group and at Dartmouth's Neuroscience Day, coauthor a manuscript, and edit others; she even walked me through the peer-review process.
What is the most difficult part of doing research as a student?
Time-management. Research is time-intensive and it's been a challenge to work it into my other activities. But it's an enormous blessing to have access to this experience. One of Dartmouth's strengths is its undergraduate focus, but the graduate schools give us fantastic opportunities as an integral part of our undergraduate education.
What is the quality you most admire in people?
Sincerity. Those who approach their lives and work from a place of sincere interest not only accomplish great things but really enjoy themselves.
What are your interests outside of school and work?
I've played on the Dartmouth rugby team since I was a freshman. I also play pick-up soccer, hockey, and lacrosse, and I snowboard and skimboard. On a random note, I'm a huge dog-lover. I'm also involved in MEDLIFE, a great nonprofit—founded by DMS student Nick Ellis—that helps lowincome families in Ecuador get medical care. I am also a tutor for Dartmouth's Research, Writing, and Information Technology program, which has taught me a great deal about working with others.
What kind of music is on your iPod (or CD player) right now?
One of my current favorites is the band MGMT. In general, I'm a classic rock fan. My favorites include Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel (and Simon alone), and Led Zeppelin. I'm also becoming a fan of jam-style music like Phish.
Finish this sentence: If I had more time I would . . .
Get involved with the Dartmouth Outing Club.
The laboratory: DeLeo has had 10 undergrads in her lab. She studies the neuroimmunology of chronic pain, with the aim of identifying novel targets for pain relief. Alkaitis has set up cell-based assays to screen agents that may modulate glial cells, supporting cells of the nervous system.
Laura Carter, the associate editor of Dartmouth Medicine magazine, wrote the introductory text on this page. Also playing key roles in this feature were the two Dartmouth undergraduates pictured here: Lauren Wool '08, who majored in neuroscience and worked in the magazine's offices all four years at Dartmouth, and Vanessa Hurley '09, a premed English major who spent the spring term as DM's editorial intern.
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