Hello! I am Jennifer Gatchel, a PGY3 resident in Psychiatric Scientist Training Program. I grew up in Austin, Texas, went to college at The University of Texas-Austin, and went to medical school and graduate school at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. I became passionate about research during my undergraduate years when I completed an honors senior thesis in the laboratory of Dr. Karen Browning at The University of Texas-Austin studying the translational control mechanisms of a plant RNA virus. After completing summer research programs at The Mayo Clinc and The University of Texas-Houston Medical School, I entered a M.D./Ph.D. Program at Baylor College of Medicine. For my Ph.D. in Neuroscience, I worked in the laboratory of Dr. Huda Y. Zoghbi studying molecular mechanisms underlying two inherited neurodegenerative disorders, Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 and Spinocerebellar ataxia type 7. While in graduate school, I learned the basics of mouse modeling of disease, molecular cloning, techniques for studying gene expression and protein expression and localization, while also carrying out pre-clinical studies in mouse models using promising therapeutic compounds.
During residency, my goal is to apply the techniques of mouse genetics and molecular and cellular neuroscience to study the pathogenesis of psychotic disorders and disorders of aging. I have focused my efforts on examining the role of neurogenesis in the adult mammalian brain in regulating mood, mediating the effects of antidepressants, and playing a role in the response to stress and aging. My project specifically focuses on whether genetically increasing or decreasing the neurogenic niche in specific brain regions can be protective under conditions of stress and aging. An additional focus is examining the specific cell populations and processes by which antidepressant treatment mediates its mood-alleviating and cognitive effects. Gaining better understanding of these questions will provide insight into disorders of mood and aging and holds the promise of pinpointing avenues for new treatments.
As a PGY3 in the PSTP, I will spend 4 months in the middle of the year on the Psychiatry Consult Service at MGH. For the rest of the year, I have two days a week devoted to research time, with the remainder of my time divided between learning more about psychotherapy and psychopharmacology as I follow my own patients in the McLean outpatient clinic, teaching medical students and residents, and gaining more focused clinical experiences in my areas of strong clinical interest: aging, psychosis and PTSD. As the work of becoming a psychiatrist continues this year, I have already begun the process of making frequent transitions between with working with cells and mice in lab to seeing patients with the diseases I am studying. It’s an exciting time.