Laura (Xiang Qi) Meng

Laura MengLaura Meng Home Institute: McGill University
Supervisor: Michael Fehlings

My name is Laura Meng and I am a third year Bachelor of Science - Neuroscience student at McGill University. I was born in Tianjin and I grew up in Toronto, so I'm excited to be back this summer! My research interests include the neurobiological underpinnings of health and disease - specifically psychiatric and neurologic disorders. I have had the fortunate opportunity to pursue research on pharmaceutical treatments for eating disorders, and this summer I will be working on potential treatments to alleviate the secondary injury mechanisms that follow an initial spinal cord injury using rodent models.

I became immersed in neuroscience research during my first year, when I took a neuropsychiatry course that introduced me to Professor Eric Kandel's notion that all complex psychological processes derive from operations of the brain. Each brain cell interacts with numerous others to form complex connections, communicating back and forth, that mysteriously allows us to form the conscious perception of ourselves, to learn about our environment, and even to appreciate our favourite music. But there's still much to discover. In a diseased brain, proteins, neural networks, and even the physical structure of certain brain areas are altered in ways we have yet to fully understand. Through research, we're getting closer to solving this enigmatic but relatively small puzzle - weighing in at only about three pounds! - and I hope to contribute.

In my spare time, I've been preparing for my associate diploma in piano performance, and I enjoy swimming, playing chess, and drawing. I also love literature, especially Oscar Wilde and George Orwell's works. Currently, I'm reading literature about addiction as a part of my exchange program at University College London to understand how new treatments are being formed, and I enjoy learning about how Professor Meagan Creed and her colleagues are among the forefront of refining brain stimulation therapies that restore the neural pathways previously altered by continuous cocaine use. In the future, I hope to continue exploring the interface of neuroscience and disease as a physician scientist.

This summer, I will be working in the lab of Professor Michael Fehlings to develop neural transplantation models that we hope will be viable in the clinical treatment of spinal cord injuries. After an acute primary injury, a series of molecular and cellular changes occur that form a harsh post-injury landscape, making it difficult for cells to regenerate and function properly. These secondary injury mechanisms can lead to long term impacts, including chronic pain, that significantly impede the individual's quality of life. I aim to contribute to this laboratory's research by transplanting cells into rodents to reverse the inflammation of the spinal cord and to optimize cellular repair.

I am most excited to delve into bioengineering and to learn the various techniques involved in performing successful neural transplantations. I am also looking forward to improving my scientific communication skills in order to effectively present my prospective findings at the North American Amgen Scholar Symposium in Los Angeles later on this summer, and I hope that my work will contribute to this laboratory's goal of developing optimized treatments for individuals with spinal cord injuries.

The Amgen Scholars Program fosters a supportive environment - everyone I've had the pleasure of meeting so far has been kind, helpful, and genuine in supporting students' interests and working with us to accomplish our common goal of scientific exploration. This program is intended to help participants engage in meaningful research and includes many supplementary experiences - including the opportunity to participate in a conference - that all aims to showcase the rewarding aspects of a career in academia and helps me develop toward my career goals. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in the first iteration of the program this summer, and I would encourage any eligible students to apply in the future!