The human brain has fascinated Judy Cheng for as long as she can remember.

“There is so much that we don’t know about it, and every new discovery about the brain is so exciting to me that entering the neuroscience field was a no-brainer!”

During Cheng’s undergraduate degree at UBC majoring in Behavioural Neuroscience, she completed a directed studies project in Dr. Lynn Raymond’s lab studying behavioural and cognitive deficits in a mouse model of Huntington disease. She thoroughly enjoyed her experience and had the privilege to continue as a Master’s student in the Raymond lab.

“My lab is very supportive and provides mentorship while also allowing students to thrive and propose their own ideas,” she says. “I am also grateful that the GPN recognizes the importance of student mental health and offers various resources for students, such as wellness workshops, journal clubs and social networking events.”

Cheng’s research focuses on synaptic plasticity in Huntington disease and how impaired signaling of different neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and endocannabinoids, can lead to the motor and cognitive deficits of this movement disorder.

“I use various methods to study calcium signalling in Huntington disease both in vitro and in vivo, such as live calcium imaging in neuronal cultures and fibre photometry combined with behavioural tests to compare calcium dynamics between Huntington and wild-type mice.”

As there is currently no cure for this neurodegenerative disorder, her research will provide novel insight into the underlying mechanisms that give rise to these symptoms and contribute to the foundational knowledge necessary for finding a cure.

Recently, Cheng transferred from the Master’s to the PhD program in Neuroscience. Her long-term plans are to apply the research techniques and skills developed in graduate school in an industry setting. She hopes to one day work at a pharmaceutical company and participate in drug development research for epilepsy or mental illness.

This profile was published as part of the DMCBH 2021-2022 Year in Review