April 25th, 2016 Dana Simmons

12321352_10200557818725070_3673246447930638022_nDana Simmons (@dhsimmons1) is a Ph.D. Candidate in Neurobiology at The University of Chicago, where she researches the role of the cerebellum in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dana’s dissertation research seeks to find and explain abnormalities in communication between neurons in autistic brains. Specifically, Dana is interested in exploring delays in developmental pruning of extra synaptic connections in the autistic cerebellum. To investigate these research questions, Dana uses a combination of techniques including patch-clamp electrophysiology, calcium imaging, and immunohistochemistry.

In connection with her research, Dana has developed a desire to share the beauty of the cerebellum through science-based art (SciArt). The cerebellum contains complexly branched neurons called Purkinje cells whose dendrites visually resemble the structure of tree branches. Dana recently completed The Bridge residency, a collaborative program through the SciArt Center of New York, where she was thrilled to have the opportunity to investigate microscopic and macroscopic Purkinje-like patterns in nature.

In addition to research and SciArt, Dana revamped the blog for the Illinois Science Council, a non-profit that seeks to improve science literacy among adults in Chicago. One goal Dana established for the blog was to show that everyone, no matter what job they have, uses some type of science in their day-to-day life. To meet this goal, Dana volunteers as a Co-Editor for the blog and regularly interviews professionals from various sectors of science. Between interviews, Dana also writes articles about various science topics such as brain plasticity and why popcorn kernels pop.

Follow Dana on Twitter (@dhsimmons1) for updates on research, photos of her SciArt, and posts from the Illinois Science Council.

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