Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Faculty of Medicine, UBC
My overall research interest is in understanding epigenetic mechanisms of transcriptional regulation involved in brain plasticity and neurodevelopmental disorders. I have a broad background in neurobiology and behavioral neuroscience as well as epigenetics and neurodevelopmental disorders.
My graduate work in Dr. Marcelo Wood’s laboratory at UC Irvine focused on examining the role of a neuron-specific nucleosome remodeling complex in regulating transcription subserving long-term memory formation. My postdoctoral work under Dr. Janine LaSalle at UC Davis focused on understanding how DNA methylation and chromatin accessibility impact gene expression in autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
I have extensive experience in animal behavior, molecular neuroscience, bioinformatics and systems biology approaches for interpreting epigenomes. I was co-mentored in the Autism Training Program at the UC Davis MIND Institute by Dr. Jacqueline Crawley, an expert in animal models and behaviors related to neurodevelopment and ASD, and Dr. Paul Ashwood, an expert in ASD neuro-immunology.
My current research focus is on understanding how early-life perturbations to the epigenome alter microglia-neuron interactions in the developing brain and lead to life-long changes in cellular function and behavior.
The Ciernia laboratory combines experimental and computational approaches to understand how epigenetic mechanisms regulate gene expression across our lifespan. The lab specifically focuses on mechanisms of epigenetic regulation in multiple brain cell populations across normal brain and immune system development and in rodent models of neurodevelopmental disorders. We test novel hypotheses linking genetic and environmental risk factors to altered patterns of gene expression, epigenomic regulatory pathways, cellular function and animal behaviour.
Findings from our research will increase our understanding of the basic mechanisms regulating gene expression in the brain and form the basis for future development of novel immune targeted therapeutics for neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder.Publications