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Associate Concentration Advisor in Neuroscience

Laura Magnotti

Associate Concentration Advisor in Neuroscience

Lecturer on Neuroscience

Additional Information

Laura’s office is in the Biological Labs (BioLabs) Building, suite 1082. This is on the first floor of BioLabs, closest to the main entrance of the building, which is near the volleyball courtyard and flanked by rhinoceros statues (see brain icon on map below). Enter these main doors and turn left to find the office. Come by for a visit!


Office Hours: by appointment

Personal Statement

I have an undergraduate degree in Biological Basis of Behavior and History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania. I then came to Harvard to complete a PhD in Neurobiology and never left. As a graduate student, I studied gap junctional intercellular communication between oligodendrocytes and astrocytes and its role in the formation and maintenance of myelin. Since then, I’ve switched gears, and I’m now working with a novel source of adult neural stem cells and trying to understand their differentiation potential and investigate possible therapeutic applications.

My job as preceptor is quite a bit different than most other preceptors, which illustrates the flexibility of the position. Instead of being part of a large lecture course, my primary responsibility is to serve as one of the two academic advisors for undergraduate students who are concentrating in Neurobiology. I think that just illustrates the flexibility of the preceptor position. The way I see it, preceptors have a passion for teaching and try to bring new energy and new ideas to the classroom in whatever capacity they’re needed.

One appealing aspect of becoming a preceptor was that the title sounds like a part of the Harry Potter universe. Other than that, I was really excited by the idea of working directly with undergraduates on a daily basis. As a preceptor, the bulk of my time is spent as an academic advisor for the ~230 undergraduate Neurobiology concentrators here at Harvard. It’s a really fantastic experience to watch these students as they work towards their goals and accomplish some amazing things along the way. I’m just happy that they let me along for the ride!

I have also designed and taught two courses of my own. The first was a Neurobiology tutorial (Neurobio 95hfp) called Designer Neurons: How Cell Types are Generated in the Nervous System and the Laboratory. The main goal of this course was to teach the students how to read and analyze primary literature. To accomplish this, we explored the current state of knowledge about the role of stem cells in nervous system development as well as how we can use that knowledge in the lab for therapeutic purposes. This year, I will be teaching a new course (MCB 170) called Brain Invaders: Building and Breaking Barriers in the Nervous System. In this course, the students will learn about the defense systems that the nervous system has in place to keep out invaders, ways in which various pathogens have evolved to breach those defenses, and how we can translate those mechanisms to the lab.”

Outside of the classroom/lab, you can usually find me at the pottery studio, paddling on a dragon boat, or traveling around the world. I also enjoy outdoor activities (hiking, camping, etc.), reading, baking, and cheese making. The rest of my time is spent trying to survive as a Yankee fan in the middle of Red Sox territory.