Hope Center Executive Director
As Executive Director of the Hope Center, Dr. Schaefer oversees day-to-day operations towards the Hope Center’s mission, namely, promoting collaborative research to better understand biological mechanisms of nerve cell degeneration, and mechanisms to facilitate repair. Dr. Schaefer received her PhD from Washington University, using the model system C. elegans to identify genes that are conserved in developmental mechanisms of synapse formation. For this work, Dr. Schaefer was awarded the Viktor Hamburger Prize in Developmental Biology. Dr. Schaefer continued her focus on the synapse as a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow, examining a mouse model of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) to better understand degeneration of neuromuscular junctions and motor units as well as compensatory outgrowth to muscle fibers during progression of ALS. These observations revealed that the first outward sign of neurodegeneration in ALS model mice is fragmentation of preterminal branches, and that a subpopulation of motor units appears refractory to degeneration, with virtually no sign of degeneration. As a junior faculty member, Dr. Schaefer expanded these studies to Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a childhood disease of motor neurons. She now applies this diverse training in basic as well as preclinical science to help guide the Hope Center towards its mission of collaborative research on mechanisms of neurodegeneration and repair.