WWU grad student Jessi Gauvin researching new treatments for Alzheimer's Disease

Initial funding for her work came from a Research and Creative Opportunities Grant from RSP

Jessi Gauvin is a graduate student of experimental psychology at Western who studies Alzheimer’s disease. Gauvin says she’s drawn to this kind of research because of the complexity of neurodegenerative diseases and the need to develop more effective treatment. Last spring, Gauvin received a Research and Creative Opportunities Grant from Western to help fund her research.

As an undergraduate, Gauvin was a criminal justice and political science major at Washington State University. While there, she took a biopsychology class that stuck with her and, over time, ignited her passion for psychology. She went on to graduate with her BA in criminal justice and political science, then decided to shift her focus. Now, after a couple of free online classes that helped narrow her interests, she’s a grad student at WWU conducting exciting research on therapeutic treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.   

Jessi Gauvin

Gauvin’s research advisor is WWU Professor of Psychology Jacqueline Rose, who runs the Rose lab and specializes in neuroplasticity and behavior. Research in the Rose lab, which is attached to the Behavioral Neuroscience Program within the Psychology Department, uses a type of microscopic worm, C. elegans, as a model organism for studying behavior and learning. The C. elegans model system allows researchers in the lab to investigate how neurons react and modify themselves depending on stimuli changes.

Though most Rose lab research typically focuses on C. elegans and learning, research on Alzheimer’s disease is unique to Gauvin.

“I’m very grateful to Dr. Rose for passing this research on to me,” Gauvin said.

Gauvin studies the effect of ferulic acid on Alzheimer’s disease. Ferulic acid is an antioxidant compound commonly found in fruits, vegetables, coffee, and teas. According to Gauvin, new research suggests that antioxidants like ferulic acid might be linked to a delay in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in some patients. To study this link, Gauvin feeds ferulic acid to an Alzheimer’s model of C. elegans to observe whether the introduction of ferulic acid causes any changes in the behavior or receptor expression in the worms.  

Gauvin works in collaboration with undergraduate students like Caitlyn Croppi, who assists with setting up and monitoring the worms. Gauvin’s Research and Creative Opportunities Grant allowed her to purchase essential materials for the PCR testing portion of her research. Currently, Gauvin is finishing up the last stages of qRT-PCR testing and will analyze the results in the coming months.  

After she graduates from Western, Gauvin hopes to work in a lab with C. elegans and is particularly interested in conducting more research on gut microbiomes and probiotics.