Alex Smith, PhD

After an undergraduate degree at the University of Cambridge, UK, I left to pursue my career in the USA with a PhD in cellular immunology at the University of New Mexico. During the course of my PhD work, I became deeply interested in advanced fluorescent imaging techniques, particularly the emerging technologies of physiological imaging with ion indicators and fluorescent proteins. These interests led me to a postdoc in the laboratory of Professor Milton Charlton at the University of Toronto, where I learned how to study release and recycling of synaptic vesicles in cultured mammalian neurons with optical and electrophysiological methods. After completion of my postdoc I joined Professor Alan Verkman’s research group at the University of California, San Francisco, and continued to develop imaging methods for studying membrane organization in astrocytes and its relation to fluid transport in the brain. Our work has led us to question existing ideas on the role astrocytes play in clearance of toxic protein aggregates in Alzheimer’s disease. We are currently studying how alterations in the membrane composition of astrocyte foot processes in Alzheimer’s affects solute transport across the blood-brain barrier.