Undergraduate Highlight: Alexis Brake

Alexis Brake

Lab: Neuroprostheses Research Lab PI: Dr. Kevin Otto

Hometown: Tampa, Fl

Research focus:
Broadly, I am interested in neuroinflammation. In the NPR Lab, my research has focused on the foreign body response to neural implants. Nearly 2.5 million Americans face life-altering limb loss, paralysis, and/or sensory impairment, which has created a $9.5 billion industry. Chronically-implanted neural electrodes can help restore function by delivering electrical stimulation to specific areas of the nervous system; however, their long-term functionality is unreliable. This instability is dominated by the foreign body response, which ultimately leads to glial scar encapsulation. My research investigates the foreign body response due to electrode implantation using a unique model called the African Spiny Mouse. The Spiny Mouse is the only known mammal with the rare ability to fully regenerate injured tissue without scarring. We aim to understand the underlying biology of the undesirable foreign body response through the lens of this regenerative species to inform better ways of improving device stability in the future.

Fun fact:
I rescued a beautiful Maine Coon cat named Arthur! He looks like a miniature lion and is excited to move to Maryland with me in the fall.

Plans for the future?
I am looking forward to joining the NIH as a postbaccalaureate researcher in the Translational Neuroradiology Section of the NINDS where I will be using non-invasive imaging modalities to study the pathophysiology of Multiple Sclerosis. Afterwards, I am planning to pursue a combined MD/Ph.D. I am interested in Neurology and Anesthesiology and I hope to do my Ph.D. in BME. My ultimate goal is to operate at the intersection of engineering and medicine as a physician scientist and to train the next generation of scientists and healthcare providers.

What motivates you?
I find excitement in discovery and I am driven by the application of those discoveries in medicine. Seeing direct connections between lecture, the benchtop, and the clinic is what fuels me to seek new opportunities, build relationships, and persevere when challenges arise. I believe that everyone has something to contribute towards making a difference in this world and I am motivated to help others by contributing to the advancement of medicine through engineering.

What attracted you to UF BME?
Coming to UF, I was looking for a program with a close-knit community and a technically oriented multi-disciplinary curriculum rooted in clinical needs. UF BME offered just that. I was attracted to UF BME’s unique access to state-of-the-art medical and engineering research facilities and felt immediately at home in UF BME’s welcoming environment. Through UF BME, I have built friendships and professional connections that will last a lifetime!

What I love about Gainesville:
My favorite thing about Gainesville is it’s access to nature and emphasis on conservation. One of my favorite weekend activities is exploring local trails with my friends. Gainesville has some of the best Florida has to offer! I also love Gainesville’s contagious and unifying school spirit!

Motivational quote:
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einstein

Honors and awards:

  • 2020 UF Presidential Service Award
  • 2020 Attributes of a Gator Engineer Leadership Award