Victoria Rakel Heimer-McGinn
Brown University
Etapa Académica: Academic Postdoc
Primary Scientific Interest: Neurobiology, Neuroscience or Cognitive sciences

About Me:
I am interested in the molecular basis of synaptic function and neuronal circuitry, particularly in the framework of neuropsychiatric diseases like schizophrenia and mood disorders, which are also accompanied by cognitive impairments. I am currently studying the neuronal correlates of contextual learning in the medial temporal lobe. My have expertise in molecular neurobiology, transgenic mouse models, microscopy, rodent behavior, and electrophysiology. I hope to apply my range of skills to the study of brain circuits that are relevant to cognitive impairments in neuropsychiatric diseases.

I was born and raised in San Juan to a Puerto Rican mother and Swedish father and jokingly refer to myself as a “Swederican”. I like to immerse myself in other cultures and have since lived in Florida, Norway and Ireland. In my travels I have gained a deep respect for the richness of my own culture and have come to appreciate just how underrepresented we are in the sciences (despite the countless brilliant minds coming from our island). In my particular field, I suspect that the scarcity of senior mentors is partly responsible for this. Throughout my career I have been extremely fortunate to work with mentors who were engaging and encouraging; I aspire to provide the same guidance for future generations of neuroscientists. I have mentored many students, both in the lab and overall, and am especially keen to encourage minorities and women. I am also strongly committed to outreach and advocacy; I often visit local underprivileged schools and recently inaugurated Rhode Island’s first state-wide “Brain Week RI”.

Career Path:
I graduated from high school in Puerto Rico (Academia María Reina) and went on as a National Hispanic Scholar to the University of Florida. Here I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance, completed Pre-Medical studies, and worked in a genetics lab. This internship exposed me to the laboratory for the very first time and ultimately led to a career in research rather than medicine. After college, I worked as a Fulbright Fellow in a molecular neuroscience lab in Norway. This was my first exposure to the field, one that I would pursue immediately after. I then went on to do my PhD in Ireland (University College Cork) where I developed and characterized several transgenic mouse models under the supervision of Dr. Paul Young. Using one of these models I also investigated activity-dependent competition in the CA1 in vivo. While studying rodent models at the molecular level I became curious about behavior and electrophysiology, two fields I knew very little about. A few months after defending my dissertation I took a postdoc position in a systems neuroscience lab that specializes particularly in these two subfields. I’ve since gained expertise in these areas and through the many opportunities provided here at Brown, I’ve also become passionate about teaching, mentoring and outreach. Now that I am close to the next stage in my career I look forward to working in an academic setting where I can be an independent researcher and also teach and mentor at the university level.

Project Info:
I study the role of the parahippocampal and perirhinal cortices in processing visual context from the environment. Studies in the Burwell lab suggest that the postrhinal cortex (the rat parahippocampal cortex homologue) combines spatial information from the posterior parietal and retrosplenial cortices with object information from perirhinal cortex to form representations of context.

I am interested in mentoring : High School Students, Undergraduates, Graduate Students