Richie Zhang

Richie Zhang, MD student

Reveals cell function in the brain

“He is curious, intelligent, and works consistently to solve problems and finish tasks. I am nominating Richie because he is an exemplar of what is possible when a curious, hard-working Iowa student bring curiosity and a hard-work ethic into the supportive environment for research training and mentorship at the Carver College of Medicine” -Joel Geerling, assistant professor

Coralville, Iowa

Faculty mentor/advisor:
Joel C. Geerling, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurology, Carver College of Medicine

What is your degree program and anticipated graduation date?
MD, 2026

Please describe your research:
I study a group of neurons in the brainstem located in a region called the parabrachial nucleus that express the neuropeptide called Neuropeptide S. The neuropeptide produced by these neurons have been shown to involved in anxiety and sleep, however the function of the neurons themselves remain mysterious. Our lab has mapped out the inputs and outputs of these neurons and are interested in their neuronal connectivity and function.

In simple terms, why does this research matter?
In the brain, connectivity determines function. Our goal is to determine the input and output connections of these neurons and to discover their function. This information would be invaluable to understanding how our brain processes information and has relevant clinical implications when these pathways are disrupted from diseases like strokes.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research?
I was able to participate in the pre-M1 Summer Research Fellowship and started my research around 6 months before the start of medical school.

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa?
Research at the University of Iowa has been a tremendous opportunity for me to meet excellent mentors and to develop the skills of a physician scientist.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation?
Unclear at this moment, I plan on rotating through the different specialties during my clerkships to narrow down my choices.

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