Melissa G. McKenzie, MD, PhD

2021 K99/R00 Awardee
Photo of Melissa McKenzie, 2021 BRAIN K99/R00 Awardee
Columbia University
Postdoctoral Research Scientist

Melissa McKenzie is a postdoctoral research scientist in Chaolin Zhang’s lab in the Systems Biology Department at Columbia University. Dr. McKenzie graduated summa cum laude from Cornell University where she was an Irving Tanner Dean’s scholar double majoring in biological sciences and philosophy. Her undergraduate research on olfaction in the developing zebrafish Danio rerio in Kate Whitlock’s lab fueled her interest in nervous system development and inspired her to pursue her MD/PhD in New York University’s Medical Scientist Training Program. Her PhD thesis work in Gord Fishell’s lab at the Smilow Neuroscience Institute focused on the developmental signals and pathways responsible for guiding interneuron subgroups to their mature cellular identity, culminating in the discovery of a non-canonical signaling gradient that directs the production of the two most prevalent interneuron subtypes in the brain. Enchanted by the nuances of cortical interneuron function and their role in health and human diseases such as autism and schizophrenia, Dr. McKenzie continued her work revealing the molecular pathways responsible for this incredible phenomenon as a post-doctoral researcher in Edmund Au’s lab at Columbia University. Dr. McKenzie then joined the Zhang lab with a growing interest in leveraging emerging sequencing and other genomics technologies to investigate the role of RNA transcripts in the developing brain. Her BRAIN Initiative K99 project supports her goal to identify how alternative RNA splicing networks influence cortical interneuron specification.


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