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Student Profile in Neurodevelopment Diseases

Alex Treacher

Computational and Systems Biology Graduate Program

Mentor: Albert Montillo, Ph.D.
Undergraduate Degree: Physics
Undergraduate Institution: University of North Texas
Hometown: Reading, UK

Alex Treacher

How did you become interested in science and/or research?

In my undergraduate studies, I thoroughly enjoyed all basic sciences as well as computer science. Though a physics major, I craved additional training in Neuroscience, Chemistry, and computer science, so enrolled in these courses as well. My undergraduate concluded with research project in computational physics.

After graduating, I sought to develop my analytical skills and took a role as a research associate developing methods to both process and analyze lipidomics mass spec data. This research was largely medically driven, and I personally found this to bring another level of real world importance and significance to my work.

After a few years in that laboratory I desired to further extend my knowledge and research skills, specifically in medical research in the form of a Ph.D. As a top tier research institution embedded in a medical center, UT Southwestern was an obvious choice for my graduate training.

Please describe your research.

3D illustration of a dopaminergic neuron
3D illustration of a dopaminergic neuron. Degeneration of this brain cell is responsible for development of Parkinson's disease.

My research focuses on building both diagnostic and prognostic tools for neuro-developmental and neuro-degenerative diseases. To do this, Dr. Montillo’s lab focuses on both the application and the development of novel machine learning methods and medical neuroimage analysis methods. Close collaborations between the lab and practicing physicians at UTSW ensure these tools are of real world use and clinically significant. By building tools that inform the diagnoses and prognoses for clinicians, explicitly where the uncertainties are currently too high, we are directly improving patient care that physicians are capable to providing in and outside of UTSW.

Why did you choose UT Southwestern?

Being part of a medical institution, UTSW offers a unique opportunity to focus on medical research with input from both world class research as well as physicians. This inspires the production of clinically relevant and medically meaningful research.

What do you think makes your program one of the best?

The faculty in both Biophysics program and Computational and Systems Biology track have a diverse and extremely knowledgeable faculty who are dedicated to the education of their Ph.D. students. In addition, the core courses provided by the program provide a stable foundation of knowledge, while the variety of elective courses made available to us allow a tailored education. This, in combination with the resources made available by UTSW, make it an ideal institution to carry out my Ph.D.

What do you love about your Program?

In addition to the faculty and courses available, the student base is friendly and motivated. This combination creates a superb environment to carry out research, and expand both personal knowledge and experience. Additionally, Dallas also is a pleasant place to live that offers a relatively low cost of living as well as variety of activities (such as hiking, diverse restaurants, and lake fun).

– Alex TreacherComputational and Systems Biology Graduate Program

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