JUSTL participant: Dr Jacque Pak Kan Ip
Dr Jacque Pak Kan Ip is currently a Research Scientist in the laboratory of Professor Mriganka Sur at the Institute for Learning and Memory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; MA, USA). However, he will take up the post of Assistant Professor and set up his own laboratory in the School of Biomedical Sciences at The Chinese University of Hong Kong in early 2020. Dr Ip was awarded his PhD in Biochemistry 2012 in the laboratory of Professor Nancy Ip at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, during which time he investigated the molecular mechanisms involved in establishing the polarity of cortical neurons during their migration, and how these are involved in hypersensitive reactions and seizures. During his PhD studies, Dr Ip was awarded a Croucher Foundation Studentship, a George K Lee Scholarship, and a Sir Edward Youde Memorial fellowship. After completing his PhD, Dr Ip worked in Professor Sur’s laboratory at MIT as a Post-Doctoral Fellow during which time he was awarded an International Brain Research Organisation Rita Levi-Montalcini Research Fellowship and a Human Frontier Science Programme Fellowship.
During his time in Professor Sur’s laboratory, Dr Ip has been involved in a number of projects. One involves using two-photon imaging to study neuronal plasticity in vivo in the mouse primary visual cortex. He has also been investigating Rett syndrome, a rare genetic neurological and developmental disorder that affects mainly girls, disturbing many aspects of their mobility, including their ability to breathe, walk, eat and speak. Dr Ip uses human patient-derived cells to model the disease, looking specifically at early developmental events such as neurogenesis and neuronal migration. When Dr Ip returns to Hong Kong and sets up his own laboratory at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, he proposes to combine elements of the research he conducted during his time as a PhD student and a Post-Doc, and thus act as a bridge between molecular and system neuroscience. His aim is to continue to apply his knowledge gained about disease-related proteins and investigate neurological disorders through interdisciplinary approaches.
Dr Ip attended the 2012 JUSTL programme and his main mentor was Professor Rodolfo Llinas, an MBL summer scientist from the New York University School of Medicine (New York, USA). At that time, Professor Llinas was using the giant axon of the squid (Doryteuthis pealii) to study the circuit properties of the cerebellum and thalamus. Dr Ip learned how to dissect this axon from the squid in order for the electrophysiological properties to be investigated using intracellular recordings and the voltage clamp technique. Dr Ip was also involved in injecting Tau protein into the synapse of the giant axon, as part of a project to investigate how the build-up of Tau might lead to the synaptic failure known to occur in Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr Ip also attended lectures of the Neurobiology and Neural Systems & Behavior summer courses. He found them to be very helpful for obtaining a more in depth knowledge about the various neuroscience topics. As Dr Ip told me, “Neuroscience encompasses a wide range of different topics including molecular biology, electrophysiology, behaviour, neural circuitry and cognition. It was all rather overwhelming but exciting, and I tried to take in as much information as I could.” This was where Dr Ip was first introduced to the use of two-photon imaging for the in vivo visualization of neuronal dendrites and spines in the mouse brain as a way to investigate their function and the changes they undergo during cortical plasticity. Indeed, it was following the Neural Systems course lectures at the MBL that Dr Ip was inspired to undergo his Post-Doctoral work in a laboratory utilizing two-photon imaging. He remains very grateful to the JUSTL programme for providing him with the opportunity to understand the wide range of neuroscience topics available, as this really helped him make a decision about what to do for the next stage in his career.