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Stanford neurobiologist takes meandering path to her line of work

Why can you stumble, without incident, from your bed to the coffee maker in your kitchen each morning, even though you’re not fully awake? As I write in the latest issue of Inside Stanford Medicine, Lisa Giocomo, PhD, assistant professor of neurobiology, knows why.

Giocomo studies special neurons in your brain called “grid cells” that help us remember our environment. Grid cells keep track of physical locations and can be thought of as the brain’s GPS. From grid cell activity, scientists can chart the path an animal took, such as if it walked in a straight line.

While holding a cup of coffee, Giocomo chatted with me recently about how she became a neurobiologist. Giocomo’s path to the field wasn’t a straight line; it included stops at a small mountain town in Colorado, Baylor University, Boston University, and the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience in Norway. In Norway Giocomo worked with 2014 Nobel laureates Edvard Moser, PhD, and May-Britt Moser, PhD, conducting research on the GPS-like grid cells. (“It was like magic when I talked about my project idea with the Mosers,” she recalled fondly.)

“I started out being interested in biology and then I went into psychology,” she told me. “In the end, I came back to neuroscience and biology.”

Giocomo opened her lab in Stanford’s neurobiology department in 2013. To read more about her journey here, check out the full piece.

Kimberlee D’Ardenne was a writing intern in the medical school’s Office of Communication and Public Affairs.

Previously: Stanford neurobiologist shares insights from working in Nobel-winning lab
Photo by Norbert von der Groeben

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