B.A., Mount Holyoke College; M.S., Ph.D., Princeton University
Barbara S. BeltzAllene Lummis Russell Professor Emerita of Neuroscience
Passions for serotonin and adult neurogenesis! Excited about the wonderful Neuroscience Department at Wellesley College.
My research focuses on the production of new neurons in the adult nervous system (adult neurogenesis), using the crustacean brain as the model system. My laboratory’s primary goal is to understand the sequence of events leading to the production of new nerve cells and the regulatory processes that influence these events. We have identified the primary precursor (stem) cells that produce the new neurons, the migratory pathway followed by their daughters, and the timing of neuronal differentiation. Our work has shown how environmental (e.g., day-night cycle; diet), behavioral (e.g., locomotion), and endogenous (hormones; serotonin; nitric oxide) signals result in the selective activation of neuronal and molecular pathways controlling neuronal birth. We are particularly interested in the relationship between the nervous and immune systems, and have discovered that circulating cells from the immune system can become neural precursors.
I love teaching undergraduates in the laboratory and the classroom. My lab generally has several students doing research related to adult neurogenesis. In the classroom, I teach core courses in the Neuroscience Program, as well as advanced classes such as Developmental Neuroscience. Favorite truisms my students will recognize are, "A neuron is a neuron is a neuron" and, "Serotonin is life"! My Wellesley "family" now extends back over 35 years. I particularly enjoy networking with my former students and take great pride in their many accomplishments.
I enjoy writing (I was an English major in college!). My research has resulted in the publication of ~100 research articles, as well as two books that integrate research and teaching: Immunocytochemical Techniques: Principles and Practice; and Discovering Neurons: The Experimental Basis of Neuroscience. In 2004, I was elected as a member of the Corporation of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Mass. I also serve on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Mount Desert Island Laboratory in Salisbury Cove, Maine, and as a consultant for the Sherman Fairchild Foundation.
My life away from Wellesley focuses on my incredible family: husband, Jerry (retired as Associate Director of Research, New England Regional Center for Excellence, Harvard Medical School); our three children and their families, Christopher (Trinity College '02), Nora (Colby College '05), and Martha (Hobart and William Smith Colleges '11); and superdogs, Ray and Dash. I enjoy traveling, writing, skiing, scuba diving, gardening and spending time with friends and my extended Wellesley family.