Shantelle Graff

Shantelle Graff, Undergraduate Student, Neuroscience

Maps the brain

“A primary focus of her work is mapping the brain-wide output projections of insular cortical neurons that receive direct input from a brainstem region my lab studies called the parabrachial nucleus. We know that the insular cortex is involved in appetite, internal sensations, pain, emotion, but it’s one of the least-well-understood regions of the brain and it probably influences our behavior in ways that we do not yet understand. Shantelle’s project brings us closer to understanding the wiring diagram of this brain region, which is necessary for understanding these neural circuit functions.” – Joel Geerling, Assistant Professor, Neurology

Hometown: Dubuque, Iowa
Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. Joel Geerling
What is your degree program and expected graduation date: I am currently perusing a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience on the pre-medical track.
Please describe your research: My research focuses on the neural circuits involved in critical life functions such as sleep, thermoregulation, breathing, appetite, and the maintenance of conscious wakefulness.
Why does your research matter? Age-related diseases that affect the brain such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other Lewy Body Diseases deteriorate these critical circuits, meanwhile, our knowledge remains primitive. This severely limits the development of effective physiological treatments.
How soon after coming to the University of Iowa were you able to get involved in research? I was able to participate in research about two months after coming to the University of Iowa.
How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Research involvement has been absolutely critical for developing my skills as a student and neuroscientist. I have had the ability to enhance my critical thinking skills and apply classroom material to real life scenarios. At the same time, it has been a very humbling experience. I have been able to witness the ever-evolving field of science first hand, and I am extremely grateful to be able to play a critical role in its development.
What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I will be applying to medical school next summer with hopes of attending in the fall of 2024. In the meantime, I plan on pursuing a research opportunity with the NIH.

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