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Final Words: Saul Jaime And His Cross Country Adventure To Conduct Research

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Author: Saul Jaime | Category: Final Words... | Physiology & Pharmacology | Physiology and Pharmacology | June 13, 2016

SaulJaimeBrownsvilleYour name, program, dissertation title.

Saul Jaime, Physiology Graduate Program, "Investigating the role of local field potentials on the resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging signal."

Please tell me about yourself, why did you pick UT Health Science Center, and your program.

I have known about UTHSCSA and the outstanding work that is done here since my time in high school when we would take school trips here. 

But it wasn’t until later in life that I made the decision to apply to UTHSCSA. It started when I was conducting my master’s thesis work at the University of Texas at Brownsville under the supervision of the late Dr. Luis V. Colom when I first met Dr. Jose E. Cavazos from UTHSCSA. 

SaulJaimeUTHSCSASoon after my defense, I was recruited to Dr. Cavazos’ lab and it was here that I met the faculty of the Physiology department. 

I knew then that based on my research interests and the faculty I had met, that this is where I wanted to be. I applied to the program soon after I arrived, was accepted, and matriculated on August of 2011.

Please provide a few sentences summarizing your dissertation. What was the experience like for you?

My experience was tough. But then again, all of science is tough but I also knew that I had a strong support system here in UTHSCSA and at home. This is what helped me complete my dissertation.

My project consisted of the investigation of the electrical signature of the fMRI signal. The fMRI signal is an indirect measure of the brain’s electrical activity. 

Due to technological hurdles, the exact electrical signature has not been established. My work addressed this issue. I found that when we altered the population of neurons’ particular language, we also manipulated the fMRI signal. 

These results lead us to conclude that this particular neural language is the major electrical signature of the fMRI signal.

Why are you passionate about your research topic? How did you first become interested in it?

SaulJaimeI first became interested in this area when I was trying to identify neuroimaging biomarker of epilepsy during my lab rotations. I had begun analyzing some preliminary neuroimaging data on a group of animals and I kept asking the same question. What does this signal mean? 

At first I thought it was because I was naïve and did not know enough about the field to understand. But when I began to do literature search I noticed that there was a gap in knowledge in this area. I decided then that before I could identify neuroimaging bio markers of epilepsy, I had to understand the signal that I would be measuring first. 

An opportunity then came up when I was made aware that there was a search for a second year graduate student interested in investigating this same question at the Neuroimaging Research Branch of the National Institute on Drug Abuse

I jumped on the chance and applied to the Graduate Partnership Program with the National Institute of Health. I was awarded the pre-doctoral Intramural Research Training Award to conduct all of my work in Baltimore, MD.

What was your best memory during graduate school or what did you learn?

My best memory, or to some extent impactful, was learning that as a second year graduate student I would be driving half-way across the country to conduct my dissertation research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Baltimore, MD. My life partner and I packed all of our belongings into a 20’ moving truck and while I drove it, my partner drove our jeep with our two dogs. 

The 1600 miles took us three days to complete. It was by far the most adult decision we had to make. We were fortunate enough to have met wonderful people there that helped us get acquainted with the city and the food scene. The food scene was definitely more important to us. 

We got a chance to experience life in a way that we didn’t imagine. For example, we got stuck in the middle of a snow blizzard which made a 30 mile drive home a seven hour expedition to survive. We also got to experience the largest riot in U.S. history. 

And sadly, we also had to say goodbye to a very dear friend, our eight year old Pitbull, Malo Mar right at the end of our stay. The 2.5 years that we were in Baltimore made a huge impact in our lives and in my research career. It was tough leaving, but the drive back to San Antonio was definitely better knowing that I would be finishing up soon.

What’s next?

I am currently finalizing a postdoctoral position on a T32 training grant in the laboratory of Dr. Reuben Gonzales, from the College of Pharmacy, at the University of Texas-Austin to study the neurochemical basis for alcohol drinking.

Any advice for your fellow graduate students?

My advice to my fellow graduate student is to not let the failures of every day science keep you from searching for the Eureka! moment.  



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