Congratulations to Travis Babola and Kevin Monk who were selected as Robert R. Goodman MD PhD Young Scholar Award Winners! This Award honors neuroscience training program students for their impressive contributions to our scientific community.
PhD Candidate, Hussain Shuler Lab
Goodman Young Scholar Summary of Activities
As a graduate student in the neuroscience program, I have researched how the brain creates representations of time using a mixture of in vivo electrophysiology, optogenetics, and computational modeling. In addition, I have contributed to the scientific community at Hopkins through my service on several committees. Overall, I have worked with fellow Hopkins students, post-docs, and faculty to help create and maintain a diverse group of neuroscientists who feel comfortable and supported throughout their time at Hopkins.
Specifically, I have served as a program representative at graduate school fairs at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), at the annual meeting for the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and at the annual meeting for the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). Furthermore, since its inception, I have served as a student member of the Diversity and Cultural Competency Committee.
In order to amplify and provide resources for my fellow graduate students I have served as student representative during my third and fourth year of the graduate program; co-led the annual NSF GRFP student workshop with fellow graduate students during my second, third, and fourth year; and have served as a point-of-contact for those interested in applying for a National Research and Service Award from the NIH (NRSA or F30/F31).
In order to help students give back to the Baltimore community, I similarly act as a Broader Impacts point-of-contact. While in this position, I leverage the connections I have made with others outside of the neuroscience community while I was co-president of Project Bridge (a science outreach and communication organization) enabling neuroscientists to create exciting and engaging outreach programs throughout the city.
Finally, I have helped to maintain a positive environment within the community by helping plan the annual recruitment weekend; co-planning the student invited seminar speakers during my second year; acting as a “Big Sib” to three younger graduate students; and serving as assistant coach and then as head coach of the departmental summer softball team, Cajal’s Balls, over the past two years. Informally, I have tried to maintain an already-present sense of community within the department by connecting students and trainees with others who have similar interests just as those students before me connected me to my peers.
I am honored to receive the Goodman Young Scholar Award for these activities. Participating in these committees and activities is the least I can do for this impactful and supportive environment. I have benefitted immensely from being a Hopkins neuroscience graduate student; being in this department has made me a better scientist and colleague. It has been my pleasure to continue the Hopkins neuroscience tradition of being a collaborative and supportive training environment.
PhD Candidate, Bergles Lab
Goodman Young Scholar Summary of Activities
Travis is currently is in his sixth year of graduate school. His research has focused on how early electrical activity shapes the development and refinement of the auditory system. Using new forms of imaging, Travis was able to demonstrate that, even before hearing begins, groups of neurons exhibit bouts of highly correlated neural activity. By surgically removing the ears, activity in auditory brain centers was abolished, suggesting that origin of activity generation resides within the ears. He went on to show that signals generated in the ear flows through the entire auditory circuit and reach auditory cortex, a remarkable organizational feat of the brain that also occurs in visual circuitry before the eyes open. To understand how this activity affects development, Travis began searching for models where activity is disrupted or eliminated in the auditory system. Previous work in the lab had shown that the sensory cells in the inner ear are critical for transmitting activity to the brain before hearing onset. He demonstrated that acute inhibition of these cells abolished activity in auditory brain areas and hypothesized that in deaf mice, where sensory cells fail to signal, neural activity similarly be diminished. Surprisingly, deaf mice exhibited robust coordinated activity that was remarkably similar to normal mice. Travis went on the show that the cells that relay the information from the ear to the brain are able to compensate for the lack of sensory cell input and mimic the patterns observed in normal mice. Additionally, Travis was part of a team, in collaboration with the Müller lab, that demonstrated that early differences in early patterns of electrical activity influences maturation of cells in the inner ear. Together, these findings suggest that activity generated before hearing begins is crucial for proper maturation of cells and that perturbations to this activity will result in compensatory changes that act to preserve it. He expects to continue his studies of the developing auditory system, with a particular interest in how deficits in early auditory experience may lead to hypersensitivity to sounds and deficits in understanding speech in noisy environments in children. Travis has been a regular participant and speaker at the Association for Research in Otolaryngology Midwinter and the Gordon Research Seminar and Conference on the Auditory System meeting for the past four years. Travis was nominated as co-chair of the Gordon Research Seminar on the Auditory System for 2020 and will participate as chair in 2022.