Student Spotlight: Austin Passaro

1. What research are you currently conducting in the lab?

I am currently researching neuroinflammation in the context of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and the therapeutic potential of extracellular vesicles. More specifically, I am examining anti-inflammatory effects (and underlying mechanisms) of neural stem cell-derived extracellular vesicles (NSCEVs) on microglia and the downstream effects on motor neuron survival and electrophysiology.

2. What are some of the big implications your research could potentially have in the world?

There are currently very few treatment options for ALS, and none that are significantly effective. Neuroinflammation is receiving substantial attention currently for its roles in many neurodegenerative disorders and a better understanding of these pathological mechanisms will allow for improved therapeutic development for ALS and many other disorders. In addition to this basic science aspect, EVs have significant translational and therapeutic potential and may be utilized as a therapeutic themselves if found to be effective.

3. Could you give us a snapshot (i.e., brief description) of what a typical day looks like?

I typically get into the office around 9:00am and have some coffee while catching up on emails and planning out my day. The rest of my day typically involves a variety of activities: reading papers to stay up-to-date on current literature and what other researchers in the field are doing, as well as learning potential new techniques and ensuring my experiments are designed; carrying out any necessary lab work – since I do a lot of cell culture, this usually involves thawing/maintaining cultures, recording neural activity, imaging, or any other experiment-specific assays or procedures; going over (or editing) experimental plans and making sure I am staying on track with all of my planned experiments. Finally, I frequently have meetings or seminars to attend that are scattered throughout the day, which serve to keep me involved on campus and with other like-minded researchers, as well as being a nice way to break up the day (not to mention they often have free food!).

4. Where could we find you outside of the lab?

Outside the lab, you can find me relaxing outside, at a baseball game, or hanging out with friends. I’m constantly trying to enjoy Athens whether it’s at a restaurant downtown, trivia, or any of the other fun things to do here.

5. What was the last book you read? 

A Tale of Two Citiesby Charles Dickens. When I have time to read outside of the lab, I tend to gravitate (no pun intended) toward sci-fi/fantasy, but I’ve also recently been making an effort to read some of the classics I never got around to or maybe don’t remember as well as I’d like.