Jennifer Leigh

Master's Student

You work in a laboratory. What are you currently researching?

I work full time as a technician in Dr. Robert Dirksen’s lab in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at the Medical Center, and am also a part time graduate student pursuing a Master’s degree through the Department of Biology. My lab studies the calcium dynamics and excitation-contraction coupling mechanisms that control skeletal muscle function, as well as the myopathies that arise when abnormalities in these processes occur. My project focuses on a disease called Tubular Aggregate Myopathy (TAM) that arises from mutations in proteins called Stim1 and Orai1 that are involved in Store Operated Calcium Entry. I am working on characterizing the Mitochondrial dysfunction in our G100S mouse model of TAM through quantitative assays as well as assessing their function through respiratory studies. 

What was it that originally sparked your interest in biology?

I graduated from a very small high school in central New York and my senior year I took an AP Biology course. At the beginning of the class there were only a few other students enrolled as well, and after a couple of weeks everyone else had dropped the course but me. My teacher at the time was very enthusiastic about biology and having that one-on-one time to learn the material for the course as well as explore other topics that were of specific interest to me really gave me the confidence that a career in research was what I wanted to pursue.

What do you enjoy most about working here at the U of R?

One of the things I enjoy the most about working here are the opportunities and benefits I receive as an employee at the University. My job as a technician has given me invaluable lab experience and the tuition benefits I receive through my position allow me to pursue my graduate educational goals at the same time. I also have a second answer for this question, which is of course the people I get to learn from and work with in my lab on a daily basis. Their knowledge and support has been crucial to my growth in the lab.

What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned working here and/or studying biology?

The most important thing I have learned working here is gaining confidence in my ability to interpret and articulate research results from my own projects as well as others. Through presentations or weekly lab meetings I have learned a lot about presenting my research in a way that is informative and effective.  

How do you unwind when you’re not in the lab?

When I am not in the lab I spend a lot of time either kayaking or hiking outdoors, or indoors hanging out with my cat and learning to knit!