Growing up, Ronald Dean Franz learned a lot about how the human body worked from his dad, who was an ER physician.
“He always emphasized how amazing the human body was and explained to me how the body worked together in perfect homeostasis,” Dean says. “Ever since then, I have taken it upon myself to learn as much as I can about how all life functions on this planet.”
Over the past six months, Dean has worked in Keerthi Krishnan’s lab researching the neurological pathway that is altered in individuals with Rett’s Syndrome in hopes of expanding the research to all different types of autism. He has contributed to our understanding of perineuronal net formation after behavioral experience using whole brain microscopy. This work is important for laying the groundwork on mapping these structures in the whole brain and then determining how they are misregulated in neurodevelopmental disorders.
“While going through images for perineuronal net analysis, Dean found a special region of interest for our study,” Krishnan says. “We wouldn’t have thought to look for this region. Now we are planning on focusing on this region, and Dean will lead that study.”
For Dean, the most exciting part of being in the lab was to learn how to perform a variety of different lab techniques and procedures. Conducting research has also been a valuable learning experience for Dean, who wants to pursue a career in medicine.
“While this is not the clinical side of medicine, research plays a very important role in medicine,” Dean says. “Research is how new drugs, techniques, and procedures are discovered every single day. This insight will one day help me with my medical career because of my general understanding on how the scientific process works.”