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New Life Perfect Fit for New Grad

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Theanne Griffith ’08 has two passions: Latin American culture and neuroscience.

She has studied Spanish since age 13 and now speaks the language fluently. And after four years at Smith—much of it spent in neuroscience laboratories—she effortlessly speaks in the scientific vernacular as well.

Griffith, who will graduate on Sunday, May 18, with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and Spanish, will return to Santiago, Chile, where she spent last summer on a Praxis internship, to begin her job as a laboratory technician in the cellular-molecular biology department at La Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile.

Though Griffith will continue her life of lab work, spending quiet and often solitary hours analyzing molecular mechanisms through a microscope lens, her work may have visible impact on the world’s fight against Alzheimer’s Disease. Griffith will analyze one neurological pathway’s effect on the brain’s molecules that pertain to that disease.

“I will be working on a project that will look to better understand how the activation of a signaling pathway in the brain leads to protection against neurological damages caused by Alzheimer’s Disease,” she explained. “The lab I will be working in has a cellular and molecular focus, therefore we will be using techniques such as fluorescence microscopy, western blotting and cell cultures.”

While at Smith, Griffith worked with Adam Hall, associate professor of biological sciences, analyzing the effects of anesthetics on one of the brain’s acid receptors. Her Smith lab work gave her confidence as a scientist as she goes to work in a professional lab, she said. “After working in Professor Hall’s lab for four years, I feel well prepared to tackle the various types of research questions I may be presented with in the future,” she said.

Her experiences served Griffith well when she attended the Pan-American Symposium on Neurovirology recently in Guadalajara, Mexico. The symposium, which met from April 24 through 26, focused on AIDS, cancer and neurodegeneration. The symposium, which is coordinated by the Pan-American Society of Neurovirology (PASNV), is among the pre-eminent professional events in the fields of biology and neuroscience.

“This conference combined two of my interests,” said Griffith, “Latin America and neuro-science. But beyond that, the conference also gave me an opportunity to meet and network with scientists who are distinguished leaders in their respective areas of study.”

When she’s not in the lab next year, Griffith plans to further cultivate her love of Latin American culture, she says. When she lived in Chile last summer, she familiarized herself with the area by taking excursions during work breaks, such as a four-day trip to Bolivia to see its famous Uyuni salt flat. “I had never been to Bolivia before and I thought it was the perfect time to explore another Latin American country whose culture I had not previously experienced.”

For Griffith, it’s the perfect setting to expand on her two passions.

5/14/08   Eric Sean Weld
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