The Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center is committed to promoting the advancement of dementia research skills in junior faculty through the provision of training resources. Established with the generous support of the Mezey family, the Isadore & Margaret Mezey award will pay for travel expenses for two junior investigators associated with their participation in national or international conferences focusing on the latest discoveries in neurodegenerative research and clinical practices. Awardees have a keen interest in advancing their careers in the dementia field and use the award for participation in annual meetings associated with major brain-related associations or societies, including but not limited to the American Neurological Association, Society for Neuroscience, American Academy of Neurology, and the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. This year, both awardees will use their award to attend the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in Chicago this summer. AAIC is the world’s largest conference focused on dementia.
This year’s junior investigators receiving the Mezey Travel Award are:
Julia E. Gerson, PhD
One of our newest Junior Investigators, Dr. Gerson, is a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Paulson’s laboratory in the University of Michigan Department of Neurology. Her work focuses on defining the role of a key quality control protein, UBQLN2, in the age-related neurodegenerative disorders known as synucleinopathies and tauopathies. Using cellular and animal models, Dr. Gerson’s work investigates how UBQLN2 interacts with tau and α-synuclein to regulate their levels in disease. These studies are expected to yield new insights into the role of UBQLN2 in various dementias and suggest routes to therapy.
Ben Combs, PhD
A current Junior Investigator, Dr. Combs is a Research Assistant Professor in the Translational Science and Molecular Medicine Department of Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine. He obtained his PhD at the University of Kansas before becoming a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Nicholas Kanaan’s lab at Michigan State University. His research on the role of the tau protein in Alzheimer’s disease was discussed earlier in this newsletter. Dr. Combs and colleagues found that a disease-causing mutation in tau enhances the interaction between tau and another brain protein, PP1, which may help explain how tau contributes to neurodegeneration.