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IBS Student Awarded Fulbright Grant To Research Relationship Between Testosterone and Early Brain Development in India

Neerja Vashist, a doctoral candidate in the genomics and bioinformatics program at the George Washington University Institute for Biomedical Science (IBS), is the first to receive a research award through the Fulbright Program to study in India for the 2021-2022 academic year. Vashist will be conducting research at the National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health (NIRRH) in Mumbai.

Her project, “The Influence of Testosterone on Early Brain Development,” examines the effect of testosterone on neural stem cells, the foundational cellular populations that develop into the mature adult brain.

“The exact biological mechanisms that shape brain development to give rise to sex differences and behaviors in adulthood have yet to be fully understood,” Vashist explains. “This project builds on our previous work that hypothesized that testosterone may influence early brain development through DNA methylation, an important biological process involved in regulating gene expression.”

The Fulbright Program, established in 1946 to promote bilateral relations between the U.S. and countries around the world, is the nation’s largest exchange program. Its primary aim is to offer opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to pursue academic or research-related goals. At NIRRH, Vashist will be mentored by Deepak Modi, PhD, whose major research interests include investigating sex differences in the brain.

“I am very thankful for the opportunity to expand on the proposed research through the Fulbright Study/Research Award and for the cultural enrichment that will surely accompany this new venture,” Vashist said. “It’s exciting to get to go back to India, having spent part of my childhood there, and hopefully contribute in a meaningful way to the scientific understanding of biological sex differences.”