Graduate Students

The Department of Psychiatry provides predoctoral training opportunities in basic and translational neuroscience for students admitted through the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Investigators in our Department examine the neurobiological basis of numerous mental disorders including depression and anxiety, substance abuse, schizophrenia, autism, and neurodegeneration. 

A day in the life of a graduate student

My name is Carly Hale. As a third-year Neuroscience graduate student in the lab of Chris Cowan, Ph.D., I am incredibly enthusiastic about the prospect of making discoveries that will profoundly impact human health. After arriving in the lab this morning, I began preparing for a dissection to isolate neurons from mouse brains, which will be used for experiments investigating mechanisms by which the transcription factor myocyte enhancer factor 2 (MEF2) regulates the proper formation of connections in the brain. This study will have broad implications for understanding autism, Fragile X syndrome, drug addiction, and related disorders. I have been working on this project for approximately six months.

Early in the afternoon, a fellow graduate student, Mike, and I met with Dr. Cowan for a weekly meeting to discuss the progress of our research studies.  In the meeting, Mike and I described the experiments we carried out during the past week, presented our results, and asked for advice on troubleshooting and on designing future experiments. This is an excellent opportunity that provides us with hands-on guidance and training from our mentor and in-depth exposure to other projects in the lab. After our meeting, I finished preparing the abstract for the poster I will present at the annual Department of Neuroscience retreat, which is attended by and features talks and posters of neuroscience and psychiatry graduate students and postdocs. 

Later in the day, I attended the weekly Neuroscience Department seminar series, in which today’s speaker was Ben Philpot, a leading researcher in the field of Angelman syndrome. These seminars provide an exceptional opportunity to gain knowledge of current topics and techniques in neuroscience, as well as to develop important collaborations with labs studying shared interests.  We also attend weekly Psychiatry Department Works-in-Progress seminars, where graduate students and postdocs present recent progress in their studies, allowing the audience to become more familiar with current research in our Department and the speaker to gain important suggestions for their work.

For me, the most rewarding aspect of studying at UT Southwestern is being at the leading edge of research and carrying out important studies that will significantly impact human health, an opportunity which offers new and challenging experiences daily.