My long-term goal is to dedicate myself to the research field of neuroscience. In order to achieve this goal, I hope to acquire my Ph.D. at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine starting in the fall of 2000.
In 1992, I obtained my MA degree in Molecular Microbiology from Indiana University, Bloomington. At I.U., I received intensive training by Dr. Roger Innes in experimental design, logical thinking, and molecular genetics techniques. After I graduated from I.U., I became a lab supervisor in the clinical cytogenetic laboratory at Tzu Chi College of Medicine, Taiwan. The lab is part of TCCM’s newly established genetic research team directed by Dr. Ming-Liang Lee. My responsibilities at the lab included training lab technicians, improving testing accuracy by consistently improving technical skills and knowledge, and managing the lab’s day-to-day operations. At TCCM, I also taught several fundamental biology courses, including general biology, cell biology, and medical genetics laboratory.
After five years of working, I decided to pursue more advanced research training in the latest techniques of microbiology. Since the fall of 1998, I have been taking several Ph.D.-level courses at New York University. I have performed very well in my studies there, which have been supported by a fellowship from Taiwan’s National Science Council. My courses at NYU are Biochemistry I and II, Molecular Principles of Evolution, Cell Biology, Molecular Controls of Organism Form and Function, Neuroimmunology Journal Club, and Physiology Basis of Behavior. I am also researching in Dr. Joseph LeDoux’s lab for credit. At this lab, I have been using immunohistochemistry to detect the activation of track receptors in rat brains after fear conditioning. One of the tracks, trkB, responds to BDNF, which is related to synaptogenesis and LTP induction in the processes of learning and memory. My results have shown that the phosphorylation peak of trk appears in the hippocampal CA1 area 24 hours after fear conditioning. Further blocking experiments using trk antagonist need to be performed in order to confirm this result.
My laboratory experience has triggered my strong interest in studying cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying neurological diseases. The majority of patients with these diseases have chromosomal and genetic abnormalities. Most genetic diseases lead to neurological symptoms, and several neurological diseases are associated with strong genetic predispositions. The genetic defects associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, alcoholism, Fragile-X Syndrome, Neurofibrmatosis, and Parkinson’s Disease have already been mapped. However, the links between genes, gene products, neuronal circuits, brain functions, and diseases are still unclear. I am eager to help uncover these links.
I think that Mt. Sinai’s Ph.D. program perfectly suits my interests. The faculty includes experts in several divisions of neuroscience. There is an especially large group studying neurological diseases. The group uses various approaches, animal models, and behavioral paradigms to search for the causes of diseases on the molecular, cellular, physiological, and system levels. I am particularly interested in working in Dr. John Morrison’s lab, which studies cortical organizations, glutamate receptors, and neurodegenerative disorders; Dr. Patrick Hof’s lab, which uses comparative neuroanatomy to study aging; Dr. Giulio Pasinetti’s lab, which studies cyclooxygenase and inflammation in Alzheimer’s Disease; and Dr. Charles Mobbs’s lab, which uses molecular, histological, behavioral, and electrophysiological methods to study basic mechanisms underlying metabolic diseases and aging.
Mt. Sinai School of Medicine also attracts me because of its location in an extremely nice area of Manhattan. In addition, the strong collaboration between its neuroscience program and its other departments, its affiliated hospital, and many other outstanding New York laboratories will enable me to receive much technical and academic support.
In order to sponsor my Ph.D. education, I have obtained a competitive Ph.D. fellowship from the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu-Chi Foundation, the largest nonprofit organization in Taiwan. The foundation is dedicated to helping needy all over the world, regardless of age, sex, race, and religion. Over the past decades, it has provided worldwide relief and assistance. Its missions focus on charity, medical care, education, and international relief. The founder, Master Chang Yang, was once nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The foundation will support my Ph.D. education for at least four years.
After completing my Ph.D. education, I plan to continue my research and teaching in neuroscience. Thus far, most of the detailed work in studying neurological disease has of necessity been performed in experimental animal systems. However, the progress of human genome mapping might eventually make it possible to test whether the disease mechanisms discovered in animals function in comparable ways in humans. Consequently, in the future, I hope to apply my knowledge of the genes and proteins involved in neurological diseases to develop pharmacological treatment or genetic therapies. I am confident that one day we will have effective drugs to prevent memory loss or aging. We may even be able to cure currently intractable neurological diseases through gene therapies, either in utero or in live humans.
I am confident that Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s graduate program will enable me to successfully meet my goals. I also believe that if I am accepted to your Ph.D. program, I will contribute greatly to Mount Sinai’s learning environment.