Meet June, PhD Candidate

Meet June! June is a PhD Candidate in the Kim Lab. Her research explores how the brain reacts when confronted with unsafe situations or environments by studying the hypothalamus and hippocampus areas of the brain.

Have you ever felt threatened or scared? Worried or nervous? These feelings are instinctive and are a direct result of neural activity in the brain. This instinctive behaviour is a primary reason why species have been able to survive for centuries, running from harm to safety when these feelings of threat or fear appear. By studying the hypothalamus and hippocampus areas of the brain, June is able to assess how these areas communicate with each other.

We had the opportunity to ask June a few questions about her research, and here’s what she had to say.

Q: Where has your research taken you?
A: I had an amazing opportunity to collaborate with talented colleagues and mentors in my field located in Western University and University of Toronto Scarborough campus. I’ve presented at conferences such as Society for Neuroscience, Stress Neurobiology Conference, and Canadian Association for Neuroscience.

Q: What drew you to pursue a career in research?
A: I loved working with my hands and I believed in the importance of discovery of unknown, especially the brain.

Q: Have you made any discoveries you weren’t expecting?
A: Yes, much of my findings came as a surprise!

Q: What are some challenges you have come across and/or overcome in your research?
A: Observing variability. Just like people, mice are different. Since they cannot speak, studying their psychological state was a challenge but a fun one. Reading, thinking, constant experimenting and analyzing my data rigorously were helpful ways to overcome this challenge.

Q: Tell us about your research and any ongoing studies or projects.
A: How does the brain recognize danger? When we are faced with threat, we have jolting physiological reactions, a desire to escape to safety, and likely, we will remember the negative emotion and the context in which the threat occurred so that we avoid the situation in the future. These are instinctive reactions and products of neural activities that allowed many species to survive predation and competition among conspecifics. In order to address which critical node exists in the brain for defensive behaviours and remembering of threat encounter, I study the connectivity between the hypothalamus, a brain area that mediates various innate survival behaviours, and the hippocampus, a conveyor of contextual information and a key structure in memory formation.
If you would like the opportunity to learn more about June’s research, feel free to contact us directly to set up some time to chat. 
Thank you for sharing your research with us, June!