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Student Profile in Transcriptional Regulation of Neuronal Differentiation and Diversity

Madison Martinez

Genetics, Development and Disease Graduate Program

Mentor: Jane Johnson, Ph.D.
Undergraduate Degree: Biology
Undergraduate Institution: University of Arkansas
Hometown: Dallas, TX

Awards/Fellowships: Graduate: National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke (NINDS) Research Diversity Supplement; Undergraduate: Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) recipient, UT Southwestern, Silas Hunt Distinguished Scholar

Madison Martinez

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

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the complexities of science and took many opportunities growing up to immerse myself into the STEM field. Science just made sense to me, and I always wanted to know more. I created unique science clubs, participated in STEM outreach events with younger students, and was a part of my high school’s specialized Science Magnet curriculum. It was through that curriculum that I was first introduced to the field of research when I toured the institution of UT Southwestern in my senior AP biology class. This experience opened my eyes to the many possibilities of a career in science and I therefore made it a priority to pursue this interest in research in my educational steps ahead. When I was able to experience research at the bench in two different laboratories and fields of science during my undergraduate education, it just further cemented my love for science research.

Please describe your research.

Genes important for specifying key lineages are tightly regulated in order to be turned on/off spatially and temporally when needed. ASCL1 is a key lineage driving transcription factor important in mammalian neural development with reprogramming capability to convert non-neural cells to neurons. My proposed research seeks to use ASCL1 as a model to study the distal 3D regulatory network by identifying and testing the function of distal non-coding elements that may control ASCL1 transcription. Understanding how ASCL1 is regulated will provide information on neural lineage decisions and inspire strategies for therapeutic opportunities.

Why did you choose UTSW for graduate school?

I had two amazing experiences with UT Southwestern: touring the campus in high school and participating in the SURF program during my undergraduate education. I was able to witness the support given to graduate students by the faculty and staff on campus, the collaborative environment between labs, and the opportunities for a fun life in Dallas outside of graduate school. When it came to choosing a graduate school, no other school could compete with the positive atmosphere that is present at UT Southwestern.

What do you love about the Genetics, Development and Disease Program?

I have always felt very supported by the GDD community. When it comes to presenting your research, both students and professors ask questions and provide feedback to help build upon your project. Additionally, the courses are designed to support students through their graduate degree by providing informative lectures taught by top scientists in that field, journal clubs that allow trainees to stay current in the literature, and structured mentorship to help you become a successful student.

Madison Martinez

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