Research spotlight: Emma Puighermanal

Emma Puighermanal (front right) with Dr. Jun Ding (front left) and fellow researchers.

As a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Functional Genomics in Montpellier, France, Emma Puighermanal works on how an important brain structure called the striatum controls behavior.

Dysfunction in the striatum is associated with multiple neurological and psychiatric disorders including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, schizophrenia, autism, and addiction, among others. To better understand this structure and how it is affected by disease, she used different tools to study the striatum at the level of genes, neurons, and neural circuits.

In her lab in France, she used molecular and imaging techniques to characterize the different types of neurons present in the striatum. In the fall of 2017, she received a fellowship through the France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies to conduct research at Dr. Jun Ding’s lab at Stanford University’s Department of Neurosurgery.

During her fellowship, she used groundbreaking techniques to study how those different types of neurons connect to other brain areas and control different behaviors. The project fit with both Dr. Ding’s and Puighermanal’s scientific interests and allowed them to combine their different experimental techniques and approaches, such us optogenetics, electrophysiology, and RNA sequencing of tagged ribosome-bound Messenger RNAs (mRNA).

She says the fellowship also gave her the chance to network with scientific leaders in her field through talks, lab meetings, and university events. “At the scientific level, I had a blast and at the personal level, it was even better,” says Puighermanal, who is now considering the possibility of coming back for a second post-doctoral position. “I met many people from different countries, who were extremely friendly, helpful, efficient and very bright. I’ve also received valuable feedback on my scientific projects and advice that will benefit my career.”

Puighermanal says she expects to submit her project for publication in the next few months. “More broadly, I hope that the project I worked on at Stanford is the start of a fruitful, long-term collaboration between my lab in France and Dr. Jun Ding’s lab at Stanford.”

The France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies brings faculty and students from across Stanford’s departments and schools together and into contact with colleagues in France, to explore issues of common intellectual concern, to advance collaborative research, and to foster interdisciplinary inquiry.

Visit the center’s website for information about funding opportunities including fellowships, internships, conferences, and collaborative research projects.