Jenelle is a neuroscientist interested in the evolution of neural circuits. During her PhD at Harvard University, she explored how a special class of newly born cells in the mouse brain make connections with existing cells in the brain to investigate the potential and the limits of the brain’s ability to change in response to experience. This process does not naturally occur in the same way in humans, prompting Jenelle to ask which other mechanisms contribute to the human brain’s remarkable plasticity.
As a Schmidt Science Fellow, Jenelle is working with Professor Alex Pollen at UCSF to gain expertise in evolutionary genetics and stem cell biology to investigate how alterations in gene regulation have driven human brain evolution, addressing questions about what makes the human brain different from the brains of other primates.
Jenelle is fascinated by how evolution has created a diversity of brains adapted to different environments and motivated by the urgent need to understand which aspects of brain development and function are conserved between humans and other species to better model and treat neurodevelopmental disorders.