Each year, Harvard awards the John E. Dowling Thesis Prize to a single undergraduate for outstanding scholarship and research in the field of neurobiology.
This year’s recipient was Julia Lord (Neurobiology ’17) for her thesis entitled: Role of Microglia in the Regulation of Synapse Development and Survival of Adult-born Neurons in the Olfactory Bulb. She worked in Venki Murthy’s lab and her research focused on glial cells, which are best known for supporting and protecting neurons. Julia’s work investigated whether glia might also play an active role in synaptic plasticity, a process that fundamentally changes the circuits and connections of the nervous system. Through a combination of visualization, quantification, and gene manipulation, she was able to show that glia help regulate the growth of dendritic spines, which are crucial sites of communication between neurons.