The Young Investigator Draft is the result of Uplifting Athletes’ ongoing commitment to cultivate resources that accelerate scientific advancements for rare disease treatments and potential cures while facilitating the next generation of rare disease researchers.
These Young Investigators will pursue rare disease research in one of five different areas: rare cancers, rare autoimmune and immunological disorders, rare blood disorders, rare genetic disorders and rare muscular and neurological disorders.
To learn more about the Young Investigator Draft and to purchase tickets click here
Researcher: Emily Rhodes Lowry
Category: Rare Muscular and Neurological Disorders
Education: Rhodes Lowry received her BA from Barnard College in neuroscience and behavior then went to Rockefeller University for graduate school and earned her PhD in neurobiology and genetics. Since graduating from Rockefeller in 2012, Rhodes Lowry has been working in the research laboratory of Hynek Wichterle, PhD at Columbia University.
Research: Lowry summarizes, “The focus of the work we do in the lab is to screen for drugs that can potentially treat ALS. To do this, we’ve developed a system where we can use stem cell technology to generate motor neurons, the cells that control muscle movement and get sick and die in ALS, from actual human patient tissue. We then add thousands of drugs at a time to those motor neurons to look for the compounds that prevent the neurons from dying. Once we have a promising set of drug candidates, we work with chemists to modify the structures of the drugs to make them more stable and more likely to reach the spinal cord, where motor neurons live. To date, nobody really understands why motor neurons suddenly die in ALS after they’ve been totally fine for most of the patient’s life. The targets that our best drugs are acting on can tell us more about what gets turned on and what gets turned off in a motor neuron when it decides to die.”
In Their Words: “Neuroscience was the perfect combination of biology, chemistry, physics, and, because so little is known about the brain, creativity. The next summer I interned in a neuroscience lab at UCSF, and after that I knew I had found what I wanted to for the rest of my life!” – Emily Rhodes Lowry
Emily Rhodes Lowry is a San Francisco native who remembers with crystal-clear clarity when neuroscience became much more than just another science class.
Growing up in Northern California Emily had two passions, science and creative pursuits, but wasn’t sure how to blend these two interests into something she could envision as a potential career or future.
Emily qualified, through eighth-grade standardized testing, for summer classes at Johns Hopkins University. At the time, she wanted nothing to do with summer school and was looking forward to a summer of hanging and out spending time with friends.
Her parents insisted she go and, for no clear reason, Emily signed up for a neuroscience class without any real knowledge of the brain or what she was signing up for.
“I ended up totally loving it, so thanks mom and dad” said Lowry, who in her free time outside the lab has a strong passion for underserved youth – especially girls – and helping access hands-on science education. “This work is really exciting to me not only because we might be able to directly help ALS patients someday with optimized drugs, but also because figuring out how these drugs are working is teaching us new things about the disease.”
A love of science, a passion for creativity and a dose of compassion for people suffering has driven Emily to the lab looking for answers to very tough medical questions.
“When I started doing my own research, I focused on neurodegeneration,” Lowry said. “Because it’s a dual opportunity to find new ways to help patients and to figure out what’s going wrong in these diseases in the first place.”