Kelsea Rian Gildawie, PhD

I am a Postdoctoral Scholar at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine with Drs. Elizabeth Byrnes and Fair Vassoler, where my research uses animal models to investigate the neuromolecular drivers of addiction. I am specifically interested in the sex-dependent impacts of prenatal opioid self-administration on neurostructural development and long-term behavioral consequences.

In 2016, I earned my B.S. in Neuroscience and Behavior with a minor in Biostatistics from Simmons University. During my undergraduate studies, I investigated the effect of nutrition on aging with Dr. Amanda Carey. My research with Dr. Carey focused on the neurological mechanisms involved with the implementation of a high fat diet coupled with dietary supplementation of foods rich in flavonoids, such as blueberries and raspberries in mice.

I received my PhD from Northeastern University in 2021, where I conducted research in the Developmental Neuropsychobiology Laboratory under Dr. Heather Brenhouse, exploring how early life experience affects plasticity and neuroimmune activity in the brain. Specifically, my research involved adversity-induced impacts on microglia morphology and formation of perineuronal nets in the prefrontal cortex of males and females. I also sought to uncover a potential microglia-mediated mechanism by which males and females are affected differently by multiple hits of adversity throughout development, and how this may drive altered behavioral functioning.

In my future research program, I plan to investigate how early life adversity affects senescent brain and behavioral functioning, and how interventions – at key periods of development – may allay stress-induced dysfunction during aging. I plan to tackle important questions surrounding the neuroimmune and neurostructural consequences of adversity and how disruption in brain regions such as the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus mediate behavioral dysfunction later in life.