Neuroanatomy, cortical layer 6b, brain development, bioimaging, engineering, biotechnology
Marissa is from Petrolia, Ontario, Canada. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the University of Iowa while competing in NCAA D1 Track and Field (Javelin). After becoming involved with research investigating accelerometer algorithms, she was recognized as a National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges Scholar, by the Society of Women Engineers international body, and by the American College of Sports Medicine for her scientific contributions, presentations, and publications. She has been accepted to Harvard Medical School, having deferred matriculation for her duration of study at Oxford. Marissa completed the MSc in Neuroscience through Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology (2021-2022) where she engaged in independent research projects involving sleep physiology in the Miesenböck and Molnár Labs (Drosophila and mouse models, respectively). She is now continuing her work in the Molnár Lab through the DPhil in Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics. Outside academia, Marissa enjoys athletics, nature, travelling, gardening, board/card games, music, and spending time with friends.
Marissa’s work in the Molnár Lab interrogates the role of neurodevelopmental subplate remnants - cortical layer 6b - in disease. She studies genetic knockdown models which result in conditionally increased (PTEN-silenced) and decreased (Snap25-silenced) layer 6b function. In collaboration with the Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin (where Prof Molnár is an Einstein Visiting Fellow (2020-2024)), the project dissects how such changes influence structural abnormalities in the brain and an array of neurologic conditions (e.g., anxiety-related disorders and childhood absence epilepsy). Marissa is interested in the neuroanatomical ramifications of this model - namely, how target cell proportions differ across brain areas and genetic constructs. Her work broadly involves immunohistochemistry, full-slide microscopy, regional cell quantification, in silico 3D brain reconstruction, and multivariate analyses. Marissa’s efforts will characterise and compare yet-unidentified structural features resulting from layer 6b manipulations, guide behavioural studies, and inform underlying disease targets for ultimate therapeutic translation.