Amy Dunn: Wunderkind

Amy Dunn, postdoc, The Jackson Laboratory, Kaczorowski LabAmy Dunn is a postdoctoral associate at The Jackson Laboratory. JAX photo by Tiffany Laufer.

STAT taps Jackson Laboratory postdoc for 2019 class of future science superstars.

Health sciences news site STAT has included Amy Dunn, Ph.D.Gene-environment interactions in aging, Alzheimer's disease, and related disordersAmy Dunn, Ph.D., a Jackson Laboratory (JAX) postdoctoral associate, among its 2019 “Wunderkinds,” early-career scientists with superstar potential. 

Dunn, who works in the laboratories of JAX scientists and  Kristen O'Connell, Ph.D.Kristen O’Connell’s research program is focused on understanding the impact of diet, body weight and peripheral hormone signaling on neuronal excitability and plasticity in the hypothalamus and other brain regions associated with the regulation of food intake and body weight.Kristen O'Connell, aims to understand how individual genetics intersects with diet and other environmental factors to determine susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease. Her search for molecular targets or pathways that mediate the effects of diet on cognitive health could reveal new targets for Alzheimer’s or dementia therapeutics. 

“I am honored to be named a 2019 STAT Wunderkind and to have our research recognized,” says Dunn. “Catherine and Kristen have been excellent mentors, and I’m lucky to be able to pursue such interesting, exciting and important research questions in their labs alongside such an outstanding and supportive team.

“I’m motivated every day by the real potential our research has to make progress in treating Alzheimer’s disease, and by our ability here at JAX to approach such complex and innovative questions in a way that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else.”

Kaczorowski comments, “Amy joined our team having already led pioneering work on gene-by-environment interactions in Parkinson’s disease as a Ph.D. student at Emory University. Given her strong ties to Maine, and even stronger interest in Alzheimer’s research, Kristen and I were lucky to recruit her to identify genes that modulate how helpful or harmful certain dietary factors are in terms of risk of developing dementia.”

Outside the lab, Dunn often speaks about Alzheimer’s disease research at public events, where she connects with patients, caregivers and other members of the Alzheimer’s disease community.

Not only is Amy an extremely innovative researcher, Kaczorowski adds, “she is an outstanding role model and mentor for students and interns in the lab,” mentoring three research assistants and three research interns. “We’re thrilled that she is being recognized for her intelligence, creativity and dedication to the Alzheimer’s community and The Jackson Laboratory.” 

In the past year, Dunn has published seven manuscripts — three as a first author, including a review article with Kaczorowski and O’Connell on gene-by-environment interactions in Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.  Throughout her academic career, she has published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Genes, Brain and Behavior, eNeuro, and other journals. She is the current recipient of a  JAX Postdoctoral ScholarsThe JAX Scholar award offers exceptional early-career scientists the opportunity to develop their independent research program at The Jackson Laboratory in preparation for the next step in their scientific career.JAX Scholar Award , an Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship, and a past recipient of the Kirschstein National Research Service Award Predoctoral Fellowship for her Ph.D. work.

In selecting Dunn and the other 2019 Wunderkinds, the STAT team declared that they were on the hunt for “people who are blazing new trails and answering important questions in medicine.” STAT will honor the winners with a reception on Nov. 20 at the upcoming STAT Summit in Cambridge, Mass. 

“I admire STAT’s coverage of biomedicine,” Dunn says, “and I’m grateful to be recognized by them with other incredible early-career scientists across the country.”

 Stopping Alzheimer's disease before it erases memories, personalities and lives?Yes, it's possible. Using genomic technologies and specialized mouse models to develop preventative therapies, JAX scientists aim to stop Alzheimer’s before it starts.alzheimers-research