Congratulations to Tatiana Coverdell, Recipient of an NIH F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award

Tatiana Coverdell was awarded an NIH F31 individual predoctoral Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in June of 2021. Tatiana conducted her research in the laboratories of John Campbell and Scott Abbott. Her work was focused on studying different neuronal subtypes in a region in the hindbrain called the nucleus ambiguus. Although previous studies had determined that the nucleus ambiguus houses the cell bodies of neurons that project to the larynx, pharynx, esophagus, heart, trachea, and lungs, it was unknown whether there were specific neuronal subtypes in this region that selectively innervated specific organs to control various organ functions. Using single nuclei RNA sequencing, Tatiana found three distinct nucleus ambiguus subtypes identified by the genes Vipr2, Crhr2, and Npy2r. Her in situ hybridization studies revealed that these three subtypes were located in different subregions of the nucleus ambiguus along the rostral – caudal axis. Furthermore, anterograde tracing studies in which each individual subtype was labeled with a tracer showed that the subtypes innervated non-overlapping target tissues. Additionally, Tatiana was able to dissect the impact of these neurons on their targets using intersectional optogenetics. Taken together, Tatiana’s studies revealed a genetic, anatomical, and functional organization of nucleus ambiguus neurons, which she hopes will be leveraged in the future to specifically target conditions related to swallowing, speech, and cardiorespiratory functions. When asked was motivates her research, Tatiana noted that she has always been fascinated by medicine and science, but chose to pursue her passions from a research angle. She enjoys the framework and thrill of research — the unanswered questions, experiments, results, etc., indicating that it is exciting to discover something new that may benefit the field of medicine in the future. Tatiana graduated with her PhD in Pharmacology in August of 2022 and is currently pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship in Clinical Chemistry at the National Institutes of Health through the Department of Laboratory Medicine. She is exploring several future career paths for which this fellowship offers preparation, including potential directions in in academia, industry, or medical lab directorship.