Jacobs Foundation Research Fellow

Siobhan Pattwell

University of Washington School of Medicine / Seattle Children’s Research Institute

Research focus
Despite significant leaps in the field of neurodevelopment, a deeper understanding of the molecular and genetic events implicated in normal and abnormal neural development remains to be explored. The current phase of Siobhan Pattwell’s research employs genetic mouse models to explore how variations of common neural receptors contribute to the development of particular cells and structures within the brain. Through exploring developmental, behavioral, and molecular aspects of both normal and aberrant neural plasticity, her research seeks to better understand the developing brain.

What have I achieved during my fellowship?
Throughout the duration of my fellowship period, I have grown as a scientist, colleague, and overall person.
With support of the Foundation, I have continued my ongoing work, started new research angles, and finalized projects in the Holland lab at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. My work remains focused on understanding genes important for normal and abnormal neurodevelopment. I have pioneered a novel line of research, created an antibody and taken it through the United States patent process, presented at multiple scientific meetings, contributed to a textbook chapter in collaboration with other Jacobs Foundation fellows, published and submitted multiple manuscripts, and secured a plethora of additional funding (both private and government/NIH). I have been able to vastly increase my already molecular skillset and have mastered molecular cloning/genetics as well as gained significant exposure to bioinformatic and computational projects. Fostered by the supportive and collaborative environment of the Foundation, I have also gained a long list of colleagues and friends whom I hope to continue working with for the duration of my career. The Foundation’s ability to choose research and social entrepreneurial fellows who get along so well speaks to the hard work and dedication of the selection committee and I have enjoyed learning about topics outside of my traditional neurodevelopmental scope (such as the impact of play or the importance of breastfeeding on a child’s ability to thrive or the more business-minded avenues taken by the Social Entrepreneur fellows) which has opened my eyes to new areas for collaboration and research.

My plans for the future
The elegant and well-orchestrated molecular players responsible for normal development harbor the capacity for detrimental repercussions if mis-expressed at the wrong time, or in the wrong place. With a background in developmental and molecular neuroscience, along subsequent training in cancer biology and genetics, I have long been interested an organism’s capacity for change. Combining these distinct yet overlapping fields, my current and future research goals center around exploring both normative and aberrant developmental plasticity and better understanding the common links between these diverging processes. By exploring the role of a family of neurotrophins and their growth factor receptors in development, I hope to gain a better understanding of what makes certain conditions difficult to treat and often subsequently treatment resistant. I am particularly interested in how various neurotrophic and genetic factors can influence the development, survival, and behavior of various cell types within and outside the brain, in normal development and more importantly how these processes can be hijacked and lead to pathology within and outside the central nervous system. I am grateful to the Jacobs Foundation for the wide network of colleagues, collaborators, and friends throughout the US and abroad that I can call upon for advice, expertise, and guidance as I tackle future career challenges and innovative research questions