Eden A. Dulka
Please give a brief, lay-audience accessible description of your research.
I study activity of brain cells that control reproduction during the time before puberty. Reproduction is the driving force behind continuation of one’s own kind. For successful reproduction to occur, many components of the reproductive axis must interact in concert. A central component of this axis is found in the brain where neurons that release Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) reside. GnRH neurons release GnRH in pluses and help to control downstream reproductive pathways. Activity of GnRH neurons is coupled with the pulsatile release of GnRH, which when disrupted can lead to reproductive complications including infertility. Some evidence suggests that some reproductive complications may arise prior to puberty. However little is understood about the functional activity of GnRH neurons during the time leading up to puberty. I study mechanisms underlying the development of successful reproductive function using a technique called electrophysiology that measures activity of GnRH neurons. By studying such activity I hope to gain insight to early regulation of the reproductive axis and how this may contribute to reproductive disease.
What aspect of your research is most interesting to you? Think big picture.
It is amazing to me how the nervous system develops to establish patterns of activity that drive downstream physiological functions that are important throughout the entire lifespan of an organism. A large part of establishing such activity comes from synapses that are like branches that can give information to neighboring cells. The information that each synapse gives to a cell is taken together with all of the information the receiving cell has and is changed into patterns of activity. Throughout development the synapses giving information to a single cell can change, making this time period extremely important and interesting.
What about your career path is most exciting to you and why? (Teaching, mentoring, research, writing grants... just kidding)
Not every job is one where you can literally watch your dreams come true but, in science, I feel that you are able to watch an idea you dreamed up come to life. The most exciting part of being a grad student for me is watching an idea you conceived turn into a result. Taking an idea you got from reading a paper, transforming it into a grant proposal and actually getting to try it out experimentally is really awesome. The process gives you a sense of independence while also being really thankful for all of those around you.
I also enjoy teaching others about science, particularly about all the neat things that brains do for us and how there is so much more we do not understand. I also love all the people (i.e. my students, other faculty, and other instructors) I get to interact with when teaching, they make it so rewarding.
What makes UM the best place for you to carry out your career goals?
When I was in high school I was unaware that places like U of M were a reality. In general, I am just really thankful to be here. If I have to pick out my favorite thing about U of M though it really is the people. Their research is not only world class but they are really understanding and fun to be around. Also at U of M I have access to unlimited resources and get to work at one of the best health care systems in the world. Amazing things happen everyday and I am honored to be here.