Visitor of the Week: Mary Jo Talley


Meet Mary Jo Talley of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and University of Cincinnati. Mary Jo is a fourth-year graduate student in Ron Waclaw’s lab and a part of the 2019 Chromatin, Epigenetics and Gene Expression course cohort.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I am interested in understanding how stem cells determine which adult cell they should mature into. I study different kinds of brain cells to learn the mechanisms of stem cell differentiation.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
I majored in Neuroscience during my undergraduate career and found developmental biology to be fascinating. For my PhD, I wanted to combine my interests in developmental biology and neurobiology, so I joined a lab were I could study both.

How did your scientific journey begin?
When I was in middle school, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She started medication for Alzheimer’s, but the medication made her symptoms worse. The doctors realized that she actually had a different form of dementia. It was at this time that I realized so little is known about a lot of neurological diseases. I wanted to get into science to better understand these diseases, how to better diagnose these diseases, and to develop better therapies.

Was there something specific about the Chromatin, Epigenetics & Gene Expression course that drew you to apply?
I was excited to come to this course to learn how to perform techniques such as ChIP-seq and CRISPR that could help me study differential regulation of genes, as well as how to analyze the data from these kinds of experiments.

What and/or how will you apply what you’ve learned from the course to your work?
All the techniques taught in this course are techniques not currently used in my lab. By introducing these new techniques to our ongoing projects, we will be better able to study the genetic controls of cell fate decisions in the brain.

What is your key takeaway from the course?
This course has done a lot to improve my confidence as a scientist. This course has fostered a very supportive environment, where I was able to ask many questions and try so many new techniques.

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
Courses at CSHL are an excellent way to learn new techniques, interact with other scientists interested in similar topics as yourself, and network with some of the top scientists in the field.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
CSHL has a beautiful campus that all the students stay on together. We’ve become very good friends and have had a lot of fun – including a dance party one night in the lab!

Mary Jo received financial support from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to cover a portion of her course tuition. On behalf of Mary Jo, thank you to NCI for supporting and enabling our young scientists to participate in training courses where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network.

Thank you to Mary Jo for being one of this week's featured trainees. To meet other featured scientists - and discover the wide range of science that takes part in a CSHL meeting or course - go here.