Sedona Ewbank is a biochemistry and neurobiology senior in Dr. Richard Palmiter’s lab at the University of Washington (UW).
Ewbank’s current research explores the relationship between the microbial community of the gastrointestinal tract (the gut microbiota) and the brain. The gut microbiota plays an important role in energy homeostasis, or the body’s ability to balance energy intake with usage. In light of this, Ewbank hypothesizes that neurons in the brain’s hypothalamus that regulate energy homeostasis by stimulating hunger may also influence the gut microbiota. This is counter to the conventional approach: scientists have previously focused on how the gut microbiota influences the brain.
If successful, Ewbank’s work could inform the development of therapeutics for obesity that target the hypothalamus, treating the cause rather than symptoms.
Ewbank’s earlier research in Dr. Leo Pallanck’s lab at UW examined how mutations in genes involved in lipid metabolism increase the risk of someone acquiring Parkinson’s disease.
Prior to starting her senior year, Ewbank completed a research internship at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. After graduation, she plans to begin a doctoral degree on her way to a career in academic research.