Robert Paul Malchow

    Email Address:
    College: Liberal Arts and Sciences Department: Biological Sciences
    Title: Associate Professor
    Office: 4083 SEL Phone: 312-413-1552
    Participating in the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Awards program: Yes

    Research Interest:
    Neuronal function and modulation of retinal cells at the cellular and molecular level.

    What are the cellular and molecular mechanisms employed by neurons to communicate with one another? How is such communication altered by neuromodulators? What role do the more numerous glial cells of the nervous system play in altering neuronal activity? My laboratory uses the retina as a model neuronal system to address such questions, with the hope that answers will allow us to better understand the mechanisms by which we see, think, and experience emotions.

    The molecular mechanisms controlling the release of neurotransmitters is one aspect of study in my laboratory, as are the molecular systems responsible for terminating the effects of these neuroactive agents, a process likely to involve proteins that transport neurotransmitters and their breakdown products into neurons and surrounding glia cells. My laboratory uses electrophysiological and imaging techniques to examine the characteristics of nerve cells and to probe the effects of neurotransmitters and neuromodulators on retinal neurons and glia. We are also developing new sensing methods to measure the release and uptake of neuroactive compounds from these cells. We are presently focusing on the role
    that zinc, H+ and ATP play in retinal processing, and are also developing methods to monitor changes in metabolism of neurons by measuring oxygen consumption from individual cells. Ultimately, we hope that these studies will shed light on the cellular and molecular processes that enable visual perception, and believe that our findings will have general applicability to neurons in far removed parts of the nervous system.

    Minimum time commitment in hours per week: 6-9 hours

    Qualifications of a Student:
    Strong interest in the molecular and cellular mechanisms which enable the nervous system to function; highly inquisitive about the world around us; willingness to ask questions when a concept or idea or technique is not clear; dedication to coming on time and putting in the hours agreed to on a regular basis; willingness to work congenially with other undergraduate and graduate students in the lab; self-starter.

    Beneficial but not absolutely required: Bios 100; Chem 112, 114; Bios 240 (Homeostasis – Intro to Physiology of Plants & Animals); Bios 286 (Biology of the Brain); a good academic track record (B or better overall in course work) Other courses that might prepare a student to get the most out of this research experience: Bios 272 (Comparative anatomy & physiology); Bios 484 & 485 (Neuroscience I & II)

    Brief Summary of what is expected from the student:
    Undergraduate students participating in this research program will be involved in creating the special electrodes and sensors that we are using to measure the release and uptake of neuroactive chemicals from neurons. They will also learn cell culture techniques and use these methods to produce and maintain
    isolated retinal cell cultures. Students will also learn how to prepare physiological solutions for use in such experiments.

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