Bryan Jenkins

BryanI have an MSc. in Integrative Neuroscience and I'm interested in pursuing a PhD in a related field.

Tell us about yourself

Hey there! My name is Bryan and I am a brain researcher, currently working for Let’s Talk Science as a Fellow with the CurioCity program. I am working hard to bring you more fascinating content here at www.explorecuriocity.org! In my spare time I enjoy reading, writing music and travelling. Through my education I have attained over 3 years of laboratory experience and I have published two formal scientific papers.

What is your research about?

Recently, my research has involved looking at how the brain ‘maps’ position in space. We did this by training rats to explore two different mazes as we recorded their brain activity, through a technique called single-unit electrophysiology. We recorded from a type of brain cell called a ‘place cell’ – cells that signal for the rat’s location in an environment by using information from their surroundings. We found that the direction an animal is facing may provide additional information to these cells to help the brain generate its map. Having directional information also helped animals remember their location when their memory was tested.

What have you enjoyed the most about your research?

I’ve had wonderful opportunities to work with inspirational colleagues and research groups, and the aspect that I’ve enjoyed the most has been working in an environment where every day someone is questioning something that could change the world. Imagine a topic that you’re most interested in right now – it might be photography, animals, etc.  and having the opportunity to wake up every day and learn something new about it, through your own actions! It’s extremely exciting.

“Imagine a topic that you’re most interested in right now  it could be photography, animals, etc. and having the opportunity to wake up every day and learn something new about it, through your own actions! It’s extremely exciting. ”

What have you found most challenging about your research?

I have found the most challenging aspect of working in research to be the lack of funding that exists for certain research areas, as it can limit discoveries made in those areas. However, if you are passionate about a topic you should definitely pursue it. My work involves a topic of interest to me, and working in a field of science that I think is incredibly interesting keeps the challenging aspects of my research appealing.

How has your research experience influenced your career path?

My experience working in research has been extremely influential for my career path. Not only have I had the opportunity to pursue my greatest interest, but I have developed and honed skills that are transferable to many other career opportunities. Learning how to best manage multiple tasks in a fast-paced environment and working independently or as part of a team are just a couple of the skills acquired from working in a research laboratory.

How has your research impacted the world?

So you may be asking yourself: why should we care if a rat’s direction will help it navigate? Well, the brain region that contains these place cells is one of the first areas impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, and understanding how it functions in a healthy brain helps researchers understand the disease itself. Our research also suggests that the direction that patients travel in health-care facilities may be important to consider when designing those buildings.

What do you predict will be the next big breakthrough in your field of research?

With the Nobel Prize awarded last year to the scientist who discovered place cells, it is clear that this neural network is important for understanding brain function. However, we don’t know everything yet! In fact, each new discovery creates many more questions. The next big breakthrough may be to determine how these cells map three-dimensional environments in land animals, or to pinpoint which cells will fire in certain surroundings. Will it be yours to discover?

I was not always as interested in research as I am now – I’m also passionate for the arts and once considered a career in advertising or graphic design. However I had one high school biology class that changed that for me... 

What motivates you to do research?

I was not always as interested in research as I am now – I’m also passionate for the arts and once considered a career in advertising or graphic design. However, I had one high school biology class that changed that for me. Ever since then, I have pursued scientific study. During my undergraduate degree I discovered my passion for neuroscience and found opportunities to get experience working in a research environment. Especially these days, having working experience can set you apart from the competition, and that is why it is particularly important to actively seek out opportunities for yourself.

Tell us about your 'Eureka' moment

I think the most influential moment for me was the moment that I realized brain research is something that I am very passionate about. During a physiology course I took as an undergraduate, I was taught that memories are stored in our brains through the responsiveness of neurons to familiar stimuli – the more familiar something is the easier it is for the neuron to respond to it. I immediately knew that I wanted to pursue studying memory and offered to volunteer in a lab for the summer in order to gain relevant experience. That was the smartest decision of my life.

Bryan Jenkins

Bryan Jenkins works as a Fellow with the CurioCity team. He is an academically trained neuroscientist, and has interests that span across a wide range of scientific topics. His past research has examined the role that molecular and cellular systems have in learning, memory, and sensory abilities. The communication of scientific discoveries through outreach and education initiatives is something that he is very passionate about. In his spare time he likes to read, write, and play his guitar.



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