Understanding Brain Development and How It Can Go Wrong
Logan Dunn was initially not interested in science.
“I was a teenager who had zero percent interest in science in general,” he said. “After graduating from high school, I chose what I consider to be the best route for someone who had no idea what they wanted to do with their life: the military. I was a medic in the US Army for seven years. After serving four years on active duty, I chose to come home and use the GI Bill to attend college. I initially wanted to go to medical school, but this changed about five weeks into my first semester. My first science class with an associated lab was General Chemistry I, and I loved my time in lab. I developed great relationships with my professors at Pellissippi State Community College.”
After graduating summa cum laude with an AS in biology from Pellissippi State, Dunn transferred to Maryville College to obtain a BS in biochemistry. During this time, he also participated in the Biophysics NSF REU program hosted at Clemson University, where he used confocal, hyperspectral, and multiphoton imaging modalities to evaluate the cellular uptake and biocompatibility of single-walled carbon nanotube imaging probes.
While at Maryville College his advisor, Professor Angela Gibson—who obtained her PhD from BCMB—suggested Dunn apply to the BCMB graduate program.
“I chose to join BCMB because I felt like BCMB had all of the tools for science,” he said. “I also enjoyed my interviews with faculty during the recruitment process.”
Dunn arrived at UT with an interest in neurobiology.
“As a teenager, my maternal grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and this was a progressively horrible experience for my family,” he said. “When I came here to interview for BCMB, I was interested in working with Professor Keerthi Krishnan, who studies a neurodevelopmental disorder called Rett Syndrome. While a different disorder/disease, my perspective is graduate school is a means to an end—meaning we are here to gain the skills and learn the techniques to ultimately go off into the sunset and do the things we really want to do. Professor Krishnan and I hit it off in my initial interview and during my rotation. I really enjoyed my time in the lab as well as the people in it. And here I am 2½ years later in the Krishnan lab.”
Dunn is currently working on purifying a protein, MeCP2, from female mouse brains that is linked to Rett Syndrome. He plans on analyzing MeCP2 for post-translational modifications using mass spectrometry. Studies on neural activity-dependent post-translational modifications are typically carried out on cultured neurons. Carrying out this research in brains will be challenging, but rewarding because it will help to answer what controls Rett Syndrome. Dunn was awarded a prestigious grant from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowships Program to carry out this research.
“This fellowship has allowed me to focus on research without having to balance time between lab work and teaching,” he said. “Since being awarded the fellowship, I’ve published one first-author paper with a second manuscript in the final stages of publication.”
When not in the lab, Dunn takes care of his Bernese Mountain Dog, two cats, and two Holland Lop rabbits: “All of which I just found out I’m allergic to.”