Student Q&A: Bryan McClarty, NUIN
Bryan McClarty is a fifth-year student in the Northwestern Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program (NUIN), studying epigenetic regulation of Alzheimer’s disease.
Where is your hometown?
I am from a west suburb of Chicago called Wood Dale, Ill., near O’Hare International Airport.
What are your research interests?
My main research interest includes neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). I enjoy neurodegenerative research because there are many niches within each disease that exist. This allows for more collaboration with other groups that might help shed light on your current projects, but this also helps put together many of the working pieces of the diseases together to address common research questions and goals.
What exciting projects are you working on?
I am currently working on a project that is interested in understanding how epigenetic mechanisms modulate aging and AD processes. I use a specific AD mouse model paired with epigenetic profiling tools to understand the temporal and spatial epigenetic changes occurring during aging and AD, and how these changes impact memory function, as well as neuropathology of AD.
After understanding the specific epigenetic changes that are modulating aging and AD related processes, we plan on using behavioral pharmacology to target such epigenetic changes to improve memory function and decrease the severity of Alzheimer’s Disease pathologies.
From my project, we will have a better understanding of the epigenetic mechanisms that link aging and AD. Also, identification of these epigenetic mechanisms may help to develop novel therapeutic strategies targeting the epigenetic alterations for prevention and treatment of AD.
What attracted you to your program?
I have always had a strong interest in neuroscience; however, I did not have my first neuroscience research experience until the summer going into my senior year of undergrad through the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) here at Northwestern. I had the amazing opportunity to work with Dr. Geoffrey Swanson trying to understand kainate receptor modulation in spinal cord development. I was able to interact with multiple NUIN students and faculty, and gained a sense of the program dynamic, rigor and sense of community. Also, given my interest of neurodegeneration and translational research, NUIN has many faculty members conducting strong translational neurodegeneration research, which was most attractive to me.
What has been your best experience at Feinberg?
The best experience has been being able to grow as a scientist due to expanding my network of faculty, advisors and students who have helped me tremendously by identifying my strengths and working with me to improve skillsets that I was lacking. Also, many friends I have made at Northwestern have been an integral part of my experience here. Graduate school is very hard, and there are many points of constant struggle, but knowing you have a great support system and sense of community has been very important.
How would you describe the faculty at Feinberg?
The faculty at Northwestern are very collaborative, which is one of the reasons I chose Northwestern to do my doctoral degree. Due to my strong interest in AD, I have consulted with many faculty members regarding my project, which has significantly improved the impact of my research. Even outside of my research topic, I have found faculty to be extremely helpful in a multitude of ways, including general advising, career planning, and helping me understand methods or data analysis tools.
What do you do in your free time?
Before the pandemic, I really enjoyed traveling. Learning about cultures, languages and trying new foods is truly an amazing experience. Due to the pandemic, I have not traveled much, but find myself getting back into photography, running and enjoying time with family and friends! I have already run 2 half marathons but would love to run the Chicago marathon within the next 2 years.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I am considering multiple career paths after graduating. Based on my time here at Northwestern, I have grown an interest in translational research and science communication, therefore, I am very interested in careers that would allow me to utilize both interests to help better understand and build upon current scientific knowledge on given issues in the health care system.