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Julia Cristine Lemos, Ph.D.

I hail from Stamford, Connecticut (where there is beautiful fall foliage). I received a B.A. in the Biological Basis of Behavior at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA in 2004. While I was at Penn, I did my undergraduate honors thesis (2003-2004) in the lab of Ed Cooper where I studied cellular localization of KCNQ channels using immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy (I have the framed fluorescent image I took of Purkinje cells Ed gave me in my office). I took two years in between getting my undergraduate and graduate degrees to be a Research Technician/Post-Baccalaureate in the laboratory of Sheryl Beck in the Stress Neurobiology group at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (2004-2006). This was a very formative time in my career. During this time, I learned ex vivo electrophysiology which became a staple technique throughout my career. It’s also where I met Rita Valentino, who was the director of the group. It was at this point that I started doing experiments in Sheryl’s lab on CRF regulation of dorsal and median raphe neurons…and I’ve been working on CRF ever since. Sheryl’s lab is also where I first met Charley Chavkin when he was giving a seminar at Penn. For anyone who knows Charley, you know he can be very persuasive. I joined the Neurobiology & Behavior (now Neuroscience) program at the University of Washington in Seattle. During my recruitment at UW, I met Paul Phillips and ended up talking to him for hours over beers during one of the recruitment events. (This would not be the last time!) I received my Ph.D. in the summer of 2012 (it could have been 2011, thanks a lot Reviewer 2) under the co-mentorship of Charley Chavkin and Paul Phillips. During that time, I added voltammetry and behavior to my repertoire while building on my skills in neuroanatomy and electrophysiology. As graduation approached, I knew I really wanted a deeper understanding of striatal circuitry and was set on targeting labs in my post-doc that would both expand my skill set and knowledge of the striatum. I joined the laboratory of Veronica Alvarez in 2012 at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Washington, DC. During this time, I learned to incorporate transgenics, optogenetics, and chemogenetics into my existing skill set. I also dove into the microcircuitry of the striatum - the song “Welcome to the Jungle” comes to mind. Veronica really taught me to “take the bull by the horse” (in-joke, sorry!). In all seriousness, Veronica taught me a lot about setting up and running a lab, and it really came in handy in my first year as an Assistant Professor. In January 2018, I started my laboratory at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Neuroscience. Along with joining the department, I was also the first hire for the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction. First and foremost, my laboratory is a stress neurobiology lab. One of our missions is understanding normal stress processing. The second major goal is understanding how chronic or severe stress can lead to vulnerabilities in developing disease associated phenotypes.

 

Mentorship philosophy: PUSH, Pull, PAT

I have been incredibly fortunate to have many supportive mentors who have facilitated my scientific growth and career advancement. As such, I have learned that a good mentor must a) challenge and motivate students to grow scientifically b) support and encourage students in times of struggle and c) acknowledge and promote students both within the lab and to the broader scientific community. I have strived to put these tenets into practice in the course of mentoring several undergraduates and post-baccalaureate research assistants, both as a graduate student and as a post-doctoral fellow. As a result, I have supervised students who had never been in a lab before, who ended up generating data that was high enough quality to put into manuscripts, giving them some of their first co-authorships.  What I learned through these experiences is that it is important to empower someone to be successful, which means not only training and guiding them intellectually and technically but also allowing some latitude and space to learn how to run an experiment independently and yes, make mistakes. 

One of my primary roles as a mentor is to act as the chief facilitator.  Now, more than ever, training in neuroscience must integrate knowledge and expertise from an even larger pool of biological, mathematical and engineering disciplines. I can point my students in the right directions and to the right places to improve and propel the lab forward in order to do the best science possible. In addition to scientific training, students and post-doctoral fellows will be trained in scientific communication – improving their ability to interact with members of a broad range of scientific disciplines as well as the general public.  This skill is key to success in any science career track and yet, is often not given enough attention. Students will be encouraged to present their work in a number of forums, and writing skills will be consciously developed. Finally, I am especially committed, and feel it is my responsibility, to act as a model, advocate and champion for women and underrepresented minorities who want to pursue a career in neuroscience. I strongly believe diversity of thought, life experience and research style only benefits scientific progress.

Ultimately, I want to be judged not only for my scientific contributions – the studies I lead to answer the questions of today – but also for the scientists, policy makers, writers and entrepreneurs that I train to answer the questions of tomorrow.  That is why I am dedicated to being an effective mentor as well as an innovative and thorough scientist.