Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Taylor Pedersen

Mary Gates Research Scholar, Autumn 2021

Research Project: Cognitive Effects of Sleep Fragmentation on a 5xFAD Mouse Model

Project Description: The goal of my project is to evaluate if chronic sleep fragmentation exacerbates cognitive decline in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. 5xFAD mice, which show neurocognitive impairment at 2 months, and littermate controls will undergo chronic sleep deprivation for 8 weeks. Following, they will be subjected to behavioral tests to evaluate cognitive impairment. This research is important because these studies could provide insight into how sleep disruption might impact the progression of cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s patients and guide us toward better preventative care and treatments.

What have you learned throughout your research project?

The opportunity to pursue research allows me to apply what I have been learning in my psychology classes and psychometrist job in a new manner. As a translational lab, the Iliff lab focuses on how cellular and mechanistic processes impact clinically translational issues. While most of my education thus far has focused on cognition in a clinical setting, working in the Iliff lab has allowed me to think more dynamically about the factors impacting cognition. With the goal of working as a clinical neuropsychologist in the future, this research directly relates to topics I hope to study as a career, focusing on how biological processes determine cognitive outcomes. More specifically, the opportunity to learn applicable behavioral tests, brain imaging, and analyses that will propel me forward in this field.

I have also developed intangible skills through contributing to data meetings and journal clubs. Through presentation and discussion, I have learned how to communicate research findings clearly and concisely to a broad audience. I can look back to the beginning of my undergraduate research experience and easily say I have grown more comfortable presenting and defending my findings. This skill can be applied in everyday life and is crucial for a career in academia. By working alongside my mentors and fellow undergrads, I have gained the skills necessary to work cohesively in a team setting. As I move into my role as a senior student in the lab, I have also seen my leadership skills grow. Through training new undergraduate researchers and contributing more within the lab, I have seen myself mature into the role of a scientist. 

What piece of advice do you have for future applicants?

My advice for future Mary Gates Research and Leader applicants is to pursue research in which you are passionate, regardless of experience. I applied to this lab with a basic knowledge of neuroscience and psychology, but knew I wanted to study this for the rest of (at least) my educational career. By working in this lab, my passion for these topics have grown exponentially and is something I now hope to study for the rest of my life. Take a risk and apply, this experience may provide clarity in your passions and goals.