Carlos G. Orozco is a first-generation Mexican-American born and raised in the border town of El Paso, Texas. HisTheir first research experience was through the Freshmen Research Initiative program at the University of Texas at Austin where hethey obtained histheir bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and biology. Through this program, he was part of Josh Beckham’s Virtual Drug Screening lab, where high-performance computing is used to find potential drugs more efficiently and affordably than conventional methods. Orozco then worked in the lab of Laura Colgin studying how coordinated neuron firing is involved in sleep-dependent learning.
After graduating, Orozco completed a one-year postbaccalaureate program at the Max Planck Florida Institute (MPFI) for Neuroscience where he worked in the lab of Hiroki Taniguchi. HeThey collaborated with the MPFI Electron Microscopy Core, directed by Naomi Kamasawa, to analyze the development and function of inhibitory neural circuits. Orozco is currently a fifth-year graduate student in neuroscience program at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) in the lab of Todd Roberts, where hethey researches the development and evolution of cell types of vocal learning species. He is also the co-president of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) chapter of UTSW.
Principal Investigator: Todd Roberts
Fellow: Judith James
Undergraduate Fellow Project:
Social and communicative behaviors, like speech and language, are learned by mimicking the people who raise us and our extended social group. This imitative learning is commonly disrupted in neurodevelopmental disorders and is even an early indicator and diagnostic of autism. Using songbirds, whose song learning has similarities to human speech learning, our lab aims to understand neuronal mechanisms underlying autism. Recently, our lab demonstrated that suppressing the high-risk autism gene FoxP1 in a region necessary for song learning, led to impaired song learning due to blocked synaptic strengthening and plasticity particularly in the neurons projecting to the striatum.
However, there are many other high-risk autism genes whose cell-type specificity and cellular mechanisms have not been studied in vocal learning species. The goal of this project is to use the novel, high-throughput transcriptomic method, Multiplexed Error Robust Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (MERFISH), to identify specific cell types across the entire forebrain region that differentially express up to 100 autism-risk genes from the SFARI database. Through this project, the fellow will learn about single-cell spatial transcriptomics, brain anatomy and the analysis of large datasets. The potential findings will guide further investigation of cell-type-specific molecular mechanisms underlying autism.