Mélise Edwards
Spaulding-Smith Fellow
Founder of M.U.S.E. Mentorship
Sponsored Rock Climber

“Science results from a profoundly social process. The common portrayal—that science emerges from a solitary isolated genius, always laboring alone, not owing anything to anyone—is simply wrong.”

Dr. Michael Gazzaniga

“Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.”

Audre Lorde

UMass Amherst ’24
Neuroscience & Behavior PhD

I am a PhD student in the lab of Dr. Agnès Lacreuse currently studying sex differences in aging and the effects of sex hormones on cognition and behavior in the common marmoset. With an interest in primate behavior, sex hormones, disease pathology and age-related cognitive decline, I employ a few different techniques to better understand age-related changes in the brain and behavior. I use next generation sequencing to look at changes in gene expression in brain regions important for learning and memory while correlating this with longitudinal cognitive testing trajectories and behavior. I am also interested in the neuroprotective roles of estradiol and how estrogen signaling affects glial responses throughout the brain.

Outside of graduate school, I am passionate about activism, anti-racism, photography, music, running and rock-climbing. I created a mentorship platform and 501(c)(3) nonprofit called MUSE (mentorship for underrepresented STEM enthusiasts) which aims to provide representation and mentorship for underrepresented groups in STEM fields. I also enjoy doing educational outreach and have been a nationally sponsored rock-climber for eight years with many first female ascents. I started the ‘women’s climbing night’ at our local gym to provide a welcoming environment for women and nonbinary climbers and teach clinics, give talks and provide training advice upon request.

My Research Will Combine

RNA Sequencing

Glial Patch Clamp

Primate Behavior

Brain pathology


Hormonal assays

Research Experience

Graduate Student
University of Massachusetts Amherst
(2019 – present)
Spearheaded next generation sequencing project for the first time in the Lacreuse lab in order to investigate the relationship between aging gene expression and cognitive performance in animal models. Designed a 3D-printed brain matrix and wrote protocol for RNA-sequencing workflow. Implemented and designed a qPCR workflow for the first time in our lab to investigate aromatase expression in the brain in animals treated with aromatase inhibitors. Wrote and implemented an odor discrimination protocol to assess changes in odor detection and discrimination in young versus aged marmosets. I contributed to the design and implementation of our odor testing apparatus while training and assisting undergraduate students with odor testing, data analysis and writing. Currently mentoring three undergraduate students in the lab and one Honors Thesis project.

Lab Manager
VA Medical Center Puget Sound
(2018 – 2019)
Oversaw all aspect of research in the lab of Dr. Ernie Blevins including (but not limited to) ordering research tools and equipment, hiring and training technicians, managing undergraduate volunteers, designing and carrying out experiments, organizing lab meetings and collecting and analyzing data. The Blevins lab is interested in the contribution of centrally administered oxytocin (OXT) to weight reduction in diet-induced obese rodents. In order to see if OXT elicits weight loss in the absence of brown fat thermogenesis, I spearheaded surgical and chemical deenervation of brown adipose tissue in rodent models. I optimized our stereotaxic surgeries (ventricular [3V, 4V] cannula surgeries, temperature transponder implants, infusion minipump implants) , animal enrichment and drug administration while training all technicians and collaborator technicians on surgeries. Served on Research Safety Subcommittee (RSS) as a safety officer inspecting labs and reviewing incoming PI protocols for biohazardous compliance.

Research Associate
Allen Institute for Brain Science
(2016 – 2018)
Contributed to visual behavior and neural coding projects by performing cranial windowing surgeries on transgenic mice for in-vivo two-photon calcium imaging. Contributed to a behavioral training paradigm which involved training transgenic mice to detect changes in natural and artificial scenery while recording their neuronal activity. This work allowed us to assess individual neuronal responses to a wide range of stimuli in vivo and how this activity becomes increasingly specialized in higher order visual areas.

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Appalachian State University
(2011- 2013)
Under the mentorship of Dr. Lynn Siefferman, I worked with a wild population of Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) in order to look at the relationship between personality, food supplementation and reproductive success. In addition to analyzing bluebird feathers with spectrophotometry, monitoring fledglings, behavioral field observations and recording responses to conspecifics, I wrote my senior thesis on the effects of food supplementation and conspecific aggression on personality and mate choice.

To learn more about M.U.S.E. or request a mentor, click the button below!

Est 2019

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