Kimberly Fiock Successfully Defends her Ph.D. Thesis and is Awarded a Graduate Research Excellence Award from the Office of the Vice President for Research

Dr. Marco Hefti and Dr. Kimberly FiockKimberly Fiock successfully defended her doctoral thesis in early April and became the first student to graduate from the Experimental Pathology Ph.D. Program. Kimberly’s thesis is entitled Drivers of Astrocytic Tau Pathology in 4R Tauopathies. She performed her dissertation work in the laboratory of Dr. Marco Hefti where she used a combination of human tissue and human-derived stem cell models to answer questions about how the tau protein contributes to different types of neurodegenerative diseases. As we age, tau can misfold and clump into aggregates that overwhelm the cell, leading to cell death. Ultimately, this process contributes to cognitive decline in a number of diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementias. Kimberly’s work identified novel findings that suggest astrocytes in frontotemporal dementia take up tau from their environment, and certain types of astrocytes are unable to degrade it. This may lead to the formation of non-toxic aggregates in the cell that alter its functioning. In addition to Dr. Hefti, Drs. Georgina Aldridge, Jia Luo, Catherine Marcinkiewcz and Munir Tanas served on her thesis committee.

Equally important, Dr. Fiock was awarded the Graduate Research Excellence Award in the Biological, Life, Mathematical, or Physical Sciences from the Office of the Vice President for Research. The award is given to one graduate student each year and recognizes research and scholarly activity that is highly original and makes a significant contribution to the field. The award includes a monetary prize and recognition at a ceremony held in the fall.



Thursday, April 27, 2023