Gopilan '07 researches neural stem cells in mice brains, and
presented her research at a recent StemCONN conference.
Student Presents Stem Cell Research at International Symposium
Jenna Gopilan ’07 familiarized herself with the
scientific research environment during her freshman year as a work study
student. As a sophomore, she shadowed graduate students to learn their
Now, as a senior, the neuroscience and behavior major had the opportunity to
present her own research project to the Media and Legislative Briefing at
the State Capitol in Hartford.
The briefing took place during Connecticut's Stem Cell Research
International Symposium, also known as StemCONN 07, March 27-28. Gopilan’s
research, presented on a poster, was titled “Defects in the Neural Stem Cell
Niche in Adult Mice Deficient for DNA Double-Strand Break Repair.” Political
leaders, scientists, academics and the general public attended the
symposium. Gopilian was the only undergraduate chosen from 10 other students
to present for this session.
“It was a little intimidating to present my research to scientists from
around the world and our state’s legislators, but it was an educational
experience,” Gopilan says. “Listening to legislators’ inspiring speeches, I
learned that scientists should take a more active role in their community.”
Launched in the wake of Connecticut’s historic decision to support human
stem cell research, StemCONN attracted stem cell researchers from around the
world. The program included events touching all aspects of stem cell
research, including scientific, commercial, political and ethical
dimensions. Connecticut’s Governor Jodi Rell opened the proceedings.
Gopilan received funding for her project from Connecticut United for
Research Excellence (CURE) and Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA).
The grant funds her studies of endogenous neural stem cells in the
hippocampus of adult mice and the neurogenic response of the brain to
Last summer, Gopilan conducted research at the University of California, San
Francisco. There, she learned how to harvest neural stem cells from the
central nervous system of adult mice. She was able to use the technique back
at Wesleyan in the lab supervised by Janice Naegele, professor of biology
and chair of the Biology Department.
“Although these are early days in her research project, Jenna already has
some interesting data that she had the opportunity to present in the Capital
and at StemCONN,” Naegele says. “Not only is this a very nice recognition of her interesting
project, it is also an opportunity to present her ideas at an international
conference where she was able to receive feedback from experts in the stem
Prior to her junior year, Gopilan was accepted to be a Hughes Fellow,
spending the entire summer working on a single research project “The Effects
of Serotonin on Adult Neurogenesis in the Dentate Gyrus of DNA-PKcs
Mice”. Gopilan will graduate this May, but will continue her research as a
fifth-year master's student at Wesleyan.
After Gopilan offered her presentation side-by-side with scientists who have
received major grants from the state, Dr. Gerald Fishbone and Dr. Jerry
Yang, members of the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee,
lauded her work and offered advice for the young scientist.
“Their input allowed me to reevaluate my research and think of new and
innovative experiments to answer questions I have for my research,” Gopilan
says. “I would to like continue working with adult neural stem cells in the
future. There are still many things left to understand and decipher.”
The long-term goal of her work is to repair brain damage in disorders such
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection