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Christopher Apgar

Chris Apgar
Graduation Year:

Faculty supervisor: Darrin Brager
Name of project: Mechanistic differences between dorsal and ventral CA1 pyramidal neurons in mouse hippocampus

Please give a brief, simplified overview of your research project.
Currently, I am investigating the mechanisms underlying the lack of difference in action potential firing between dorsal and ventral CA1 pyramidal neurons in mouse hippocampus. Specific memory processes and neurological disorders can be ascribed to different regions of the dorsal or ventral hippocampus. Recently, differences in the anatomical and physiological properties between dorsal and ventral hippocampal CA1 neurons were described for both the rat and mouse hippocampus and have greatly contributed to our understanding of these processes. While some similarities have been found between subthreshold properties, differences in action potential output between dorsal and ventral CA1 neurons are not understood. My investigations seek to provide new insights as to the physiological and morphological variability that contribute to these inconsistences.

Describe the tasks you engage in as part of your work.
In my lab I reconstruct neurons using the Neurolucidia program and I measure the active and passive properties of neurons through the electrophysiological technique of patch-clamping.

Describe what you thought college might be like before you came to UT. Did you consider research when thinking about college?
As a junior in high school I had my first opportunity to do research through a NSF summer internship. It was after that experience that I decided I wanted to pursue a degree in neuroscience. Although I didn’t initially know what to expect when I came to UT, I did know that I wanted to pursue research in the future and I was excited to have the opportunity to interact with professors at a Tier 1 research university.

How did you get involved with your research project?
The summer before I attended UT, I approached several labs that interested me and was fortunate enough to have been given an interview and accepted into the Johnston Lab. Over the last three years I have worked with several researchers in this lab on a variety of projects. Working in the lab for a period of time as well as developing lab skills in my neuroscience major have provided me with the knowledge and ability to perform my current level of research.

Do you see your project connecting with your plans for your future?
The work that I am doing in the Johnston lab is important to my future career goals and has provided me with an invaluable experience. Working in a lab on campus has also helped me to get summer internships at other Universities. Co-curricular research is an important component of my education and is often a requirement for graduate school programs in which I seek to pursue.

What is the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve gotten to do for this project?
I have had the privilege and opportunity to patch-clamp for my project. Due to the amazing courses that are offered for my neuroscience major I was able to learn this technique through the support and guidance of faculty and graduate students in a structured course-related environment.

What advice would you give to a student who was thinking about research?
If you are looking for research log into Eureka and see what is available, talk with your professors who do research or attend an event where faculty or undergraduate students are talking about their research. Networking with professors and fellow students will help you find openings and get a position that is right for you. Don’t be afraid to ask!