Nathalia Torres Jimenez

Ph.D. 2019

Thesis Title:

The Role of D-Serine in Normal Retinal Function and Implications for Psychiatry

Undergraduate Institution and Major:

University of California San Diego, B.S. in Cognitive Science specialized in Neuroscience, 2011

Graduate Advisor:

Linda McLoon, Ph.D., Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Neurosciences, Department of Neuroscience

Description of Graduate Research:

I am studying the potential of the flash electroretinogram (fERG) for use as a predictor of individuals with schizophrenia prior to the onset of symptoms. The advantage of the fERG as a diagnostic tool is that the technique is relatively non-invasive, easy to administer, and its major waves have a known cellular origin. I am using a mouse model of schizophrenia characterized by NMDA receptor hypofunction due to a mutation in the gene for the enzyme serine racemase. This results in a dramatic reduction in the levels of D-serine. Our data suggest that the fERG prognostic capability may be improved by examination of a larger array of light intensities, considering sex as a variable, and performing Fourier transform analyses of all wave forms. This should improve ability to differentiate between healthy controls and subjects with schizophrenia, characterized by NMDAR hypofunction.

Graduate Awards and Honors:

  • T32 NIH Vision Training Grant Fellowship 2017-2019
  • F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, 2014
  • Sping and Ying Ngoh Lin Award, 2014
  • Honorable Mention, National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship Application, 2014

Graduate Publications:

  • Moghimi P*, Torres Jimenez N*, McLoon LK, Netoff TI, Lee MS, MacDonald III, A, Miller RG. Electroretinographic evidence of altered retinal function in schizophrenia. Schizophr Res. 2019; In press. *: co-first authors
  • Torres Jimenez N, Lines JW, Kofuji P, Wei H, Rankia A, Coyle J, McLoon LK, Miller RF. Electoretinographic abnormalities and sex differences in an NMDAR hypofunction mouse model of schizophrenia: A and B wave analysis. In revision.
  • Abu-Odeh D, Dziobek D, Jimenez NT, Barbey C, Dubinsky JM. Active learning in a neuroethics course positively impacts moral judgment development in undergraduates. J Undergrad Neurosci Educ. 2015 Mar 15;13(2):A110-9.

Graduate Abstracts:

  • Torres NJ, Gustafson E, Miller RF. The synaptic basis of the pattern-electroretinogram (PERG). Program No 759.10 2015 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. Chicago, IL: Society for Neuroscience, 2015.
  • Torres NJ, Gustafson E, Miller RF. The synaptic basis of the PERG. Invest Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. ARVO Abst. 2015;56:193.

Professional Presentations:

  • Torres Jimenez N, Gustafson E, Miller RF. The synaptic basis of the pattern-electroretinogram (PERG). Poster presented at the Society for Neuroscience Scholars’ Diversity Poster, Chicago, IL, Oct 17, 2015.
  • Torres Jimenez N, Miller RF. Dissecting the pattern-electroretinogram.  Oral presentation at Department of Neuroscience Colloquium Series, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, May 20, 2015.
  • Torres Jimenez N, Gustafson E, Miller RF. The synaptic basis of the pattern-electroretinogram (PERG). Poster presented at 5TH Annual Spring Vision Symposium: Technology and Imaging of the Visual System, Minneapolis, MN, April 10, 2015.
  • Torres Jimenez N, Esguerra M, Miller RF. The pattern-electroretinogram (PERG) of schizophrenia. Poster presented at 4TH Annual Spring Vision Symposium: Light Sensitive Cells in the Retina, Minneapolis, MN, April 4, 2014.

GPN Committees:

  • Marketing and Recruitment Committee, Founding Member, 2015 - 2017
  • Career Facilitation Committee, Founding Member, 2015 -2017
  • Student Board, Second and Third year representative, 2013 – 2015

Other Committee Involvement:

  • Association of Multicultural Scientist, Officer, 2015-present

Professional Outreach:

  • Science Fusion- ¡Amantes de la Ciencia! Presenter, Science Museum of Minnesota, St Paul, MN, Jan. 2016
  • Brain Awareness, Borroughs Community School, Instructor, Minneapolis, MN, Nov. 2015
  • Science Fusion - ¡Amantes de la Ciencia! presenter, Science Museum of Minnesota, St Paul, MN, Jan. 2015
  • Brains at the State Fair presenter, Minnesota State Fair, St Paul, MN Sept. 2013  

Internships:

  • Advanced Professional Degree Consulting Club Internship Program, Medical engineering, Spring 2015

Professional Memberships:

  • Society for Neuroscience, 2015 – present
  • Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, 2015-Present

Thesis Committee Members:

Research Categories:

  • Vision Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychiatric Disease

Rotations:

Why Did You Choose MN?

Upon graduating from UCSD with a degree in Cognitive Science, I realized I wanted to learn more about the cellular basis of the cognition I studied. Therefore, I decided to pursue a Neuroscience graduate degree at Minnesota because its academic curriculum provides the cellular and molecular knowledge I was yearning to learn more about. By the end of the first year, each student possesses a thorough understanding of neuroscience, from development, cellular, behavior/cognitive and systems perspectives which perfectly complemented my cognitive background.

What Advice Would You Give a First Year Graduate Student?

Take advantage of rotations to explore and learn about different fields and techniques. This allows you to not only gain more neuroscience knowledge but will provide you with an informed decision on lab placement. In essence, rotations allows you to “shop-around” for what will become your second home for the next four years. My advice is to begin communication with your preferred PI early. If you already have someone in mind, perhaps working on a grant together, such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, will allow you to evaluate and forecast the relationship you will have with that person.

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