Wenhui (Wendy) Qu

Entering Class - 2017

E-MAIL: quxxx155@umn.edu

Undergraduate and Graduate Institutions and Major:

China Agricultural University, B.S. in Biological Science, 2015 
University of Minnesota, MS, Biological Sciences, 2017

Graduate Advisor:

Ling Li, DVM, Ph.D., Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology

Description of PhD Research:

My project focuses on studying the role of H-Ras, a small GTPase, in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Previously our lab has shown that haplodeficient farnesyl transferase (FT) reduces neuropathology and improves cognitive function in a mouse model of AD. H-Ras is an exclusively farnesylated protein, and the function of H-RAS depends on FT activity. Several downstream signaling pathways of H-Ras have been implicated in AD, but the role of H-Ras in AD is not clear. Utilizing an H-Ras knockout and constitutively active H-Ras mice models, I will study the contribution of H-Ras to the pathogenic process of AD.

Graduate Level Publications:

  • Ferro A*, Qu W*, Lukowicz A, Svedberg D, Johnson A, Cvetanovic M. Inhibition of NF-κB signaling in IKKβF/F;LysM Cre mice causes motor deficits but does not alter pathogenesis of Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1. PLoS One. 2018;13(7):e0200013. (*Co-first author)
  • Kim JH, Lukowicz A, Qu W, Cvetanovic M. Astroglia contribute to the pathogenesis of spinocerebellar ataxia Type 1 (SCA1) in a biphasic, stage-of-disease specific manner. Glia. 2018 Sep;66(9):1972-1987
  • Qu W, Johnson A, Kim JH, Lukowicz A, Svedberg D, Cvetanovic M. Inhibition of colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor early in disease ameliorates motor deficits in SCA1 mice. J Neuroinflammation. 2017;14(1):107.

Graduate Level Abstracts:

  • Qu W, Hottman D, Liu W, Yuan L, Li L. Two protein prenylation pathways differentially affect synaptic plasticity and cognitive function. Poster presentation, Society for Neuroscience. 2018, San Diego, CA.
  • Qu W, Johnson A, Kim JH, Lukowicz A, Svedberg D, Cvetanovic M: Role of microglia in SCA1 – Microglia depletion ameliorates motor behavior deficits in SCA1 mice. Abstract for poster presentation, Translational Neuroscience Institution annual retreat 2017, Wallin Neuroscience Discovery Day 2017, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

Science Outreach:

  • Minnesota State Fair Brain Booth, 2018

Professional Societies:

  • Society for Neuroscience


  • Michael Lee, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience
  • Wensheng Lin, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience
  • Ling Li, DVM, Ph.D., Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology

Thesis Committee Members:

Marija Cvetanovic, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience (Chair)
Ling Li, DVM, Ph.D., Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology
Alfonso Araque, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience 
Sylvain Lesne, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience
Mark Distefano, Ph.D., Deparment of Chemistry

Undergraduate Awards:

Outstanding Graduates of China Agricultural University, 07/2015
Third-Place Scholarship at China Agricultural University, 10/2014
Second-Place Scholarship at China Agricultural University, 10/2012 and 2013
Merit Students Award at China Agricultural University, 10/2012
Dahuanong Scholarship at China Agricultural University, 10/2012

Undergraduate or Post-Bac Research:

I studied Drosophila wing developmental plasticity and the effects of tocopherol on Drosophila lifespan and fertility, during which I found that a chemically defined media could induce Drosophila larva carnivorism. In my master’s program, I worked with Dr. Marija Cvetanovic, studying the role of microglia in the early pathogenesis of spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1). By feeding mice with PLX3397, an inhibitor of CSF1R (PLX), we depleted microglia in the brain and ameliorated the motor deficits of SCA1 mice (Qu et al., J Neuroinflam, 2017;14:107). We also studied the role of NF-kB pathway by using the Cre-LoxP system to delete IKKβ, a key regulator of the NF-kB pathway, under the LysM promoter. We found that inhibition of the NF-kB pathway leads to motor deficits in mice, which might be explained by disrupted synaptic pruning on Purkinje neurons during development.

What Got You Interested In Research?

I found my love for research from early experiences. I could never forget the excitement when I first saw cells under a microscope. I was so attracted to the beauty of the complex yet organized biological world that I bought a microscope and built a small laboratory at home when I was in high school. The excitement of learning new things drove me to spend hours and hours exploring ideas. My undergraduate research experience made me realize that I wanted to understand the underlying mechanisms of animal behavior. Therefore, I chose the Masters in Biological Sciences program at the University of Minnesota to focus on neuroscience. As I learned more, I found that studying neurodegenerative diseases not only could reveal more functions of the brain, but also could help patients in real life. Even though the research theme I am interested in has shifted, the happiness of learning and exploring and the excitement of discovery has never changed.

Why Did You Choose MN?

I came to UMN for my Master’s degree, and as I got to know the Graduate Program in Neuroscience, I knew this was the program that could help me to reach my highest potential. First, the four-week course at Itasca not only provides basic neuroscience lab technique training but also offers a great bonding opportunity with classmates and faculty members. Coming back from Itasca, there are four core courses that provide fundamental neuroscience knowledge and will train me to think as a neuroscientist. There are also four lab rotations in the first year that will allow me to find a lab. In addition, there are more than a hundred faculty members with numerous great research projects that cover all kinds of areas in neuroscience. Even though I cannot work with every faculty member, the unique collaborative research environment at the U will help me build networks and provide all the resources I need for my research. These outstanding advantages make the GPN program unique, and I believe this is the program that can train me to become a better scientist.

Student Mentor and the Best Advice They Gave You?

Mariah Wu gave me a lot of precious advice, one of which is to choose a PI that I am more comfortable working with over a project in which I am interested.

Favorite Itasca Memory:

My favorite memory from Itasca is biking around the Lake Itasca. I never thought I could finish a 17-mile bike ride but I did, so I should stop telling myself things I cannot achieve.