Mackenzie Spicer

Mackenzie Spicer, Ph.D. student, Molecular Medicine

Uncovers causes of Parkinson's

• Hometown: Indianapolis, IN
• Faculty mentor/advisor: Rory Fisher, Professor of Neuroscience and Pharmacology
• What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Ph.D in Molecular Medicine, May 2022
• Please describe your research: My project studies the role of a protein called RGS6 in protecting against the death of neurons leading to the development of Parkinson’s disease.  Our goal is to understand how RGS6 is protective in suppressing the development of late-age-onset Parkinson’s disease.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? Currently, we don’t know how or why these neurons die and this has resulted in our treatment options only being able to improve the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s.  Our current treatments can’t stop the neurons from dying and can’t stop the disease from progressing, so it’s critical that we better understand the mechanisms underlying the death of these neurons to improve our therapeutic options for Parkinson’s patients.  By studying RGS6, we can further our understanding of the development of age-related Parkinson’s and potentially identify new therapeutic options for patients.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research?  I was able to join my lab in May 2018 upon completing the 3 required rotations.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Both the completion of my degree and my future career goals are research-focused, so my involvement in research is directly associated with my success here at the University.  Additionally, I have developed better critical thinking skills and have acquired specific skillsets (laboratory techniques, grant writing, etc.) that will be advantageous as my career in science advances.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation?  My exact career goals are still a bit undefined, but my goal is to seek a post-doctoral position after completing my degree, with my current overall goal intending to pursue a research-focused academic faculty position.

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