A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Anatomy of a Researcher


Big Fish

Jessica Plavicki, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, studies the development of vasculature and the blood-brain barrier to understand the impacts of chemical exposures and genetic mutations. To do that, she uses fish. Teeny, tiny, transparent, embryonic fish. “They’re the size of Lincoln’s nose on a penny,” she says.

Her lab houses hundreds of tanks and thousands of zebrafish, the model of choice: “Within a week, you have all your major organ systems online and functioning, so we can see changes in embryonic cardiac output and then ask how that’s impacting vasculature development.” Plavicki’s focus on blood vessels, and the connections between the heart, brain, and other organ systems, is unusual in neuroscience—but, she notes, “when people look at kidney failure, one of the things that they see is actually neurological complications.”

She teaches undergrads to consider these links in her Environmental Health and Human Disease course, where along with learning toxicology and epidemiology concepts, students make podcasts about Superfund sites. Using storytelling to teach science exemplifies why Plavicki came to Providence, in 2016: “Brown seemed like a really creative, progressive place that … would be asking me to think about things in a different way,’ she says.


Comments are closed.