Belizean Geneticist completes her Ph.D at Duke University

September 06 10:42 2017 Print This Article

*Press Release*

After 5 years of scientific research, Keisha Melodi McSweeney has achieved the highest academic degree, a Doctorate of Philosophy in Genetics and Genomics. On Monday, August 21, Dr. McSweeney successfully defended her dissertation entitled “Microelectrode array modeling of genetic neurological disorders in the era of next generation sequencing” to a panel of six accomplished and celebrated scientists at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Dr. McSweeney completed her thesis research in the lab of pioneering human geneticist, Dr. David Goldstein. In his introduction of Dr. McSweeney’s dissertation, Dr. Goldstein remarked that her courage to undertake functional biology in neuroscience, in a genetics lab, shifted the direction of the research in the group from finding mutations that cause diseases, to working out how those mutations cause disease.

Dr. McSweeney’s research now provides a framework for the evaluation of genetic variations that cause neurological disorders and has revealed new insights into the role of neuronal excitability in the development of epilepsy. Keisha McSweeney and her twin sister, Krystal McSweeney-Rosalez, M.S.W., graduated from Belize Elementary School, Saint Catherine Academy, and St. John’s College Junior College before migrating to the USA in 2008 where they completed their undergraduate degrees at Loyola University in Chicago.

As Krystal completed her Master’s degree in Social Work in 2011, Keisha Melodi began research in the Human Genetics department at the University of Michigan where she developed a deeper appreciation for the role of scientific research in combating debilitating human conditions. She later accepted an offer to pursue research and a Ph.D in genetics at Duke University in 2012.

Since then, her work has taken her to Japan, Scotland, England and various locations in the US where she has presented her findings to the scientific community and to families of individuals with debilitating diseases. In September of 2016 her paper, “Inhibition of microRNA 128 promotes excitability of cultural cortical neuronal networks” was published in the Genome Research (Vol 26, No 10) a leading scientific journal published in the USA. Dr. McSweeney is now pursuing postdoctoral research at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

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