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Katie Bretland, College of Graduate Studies student

Up and Coming Women in Science: Katie Bretland

The timing couldn’t have been better for Katie Bretland to have been awarded the Alan and Janice Woll Graduate Assistant Fellowship, a one-year paid graduate fellowship to further her Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease studies.

Bretland, a student in Northeast Ohio Medical University’s Integrated Pharmaceutical Medicine Ph.D. program, originally was connected to the University as a laboratory technician for Jianxin Bao, Ph.D., director of NEOMED’s Translational Research Center. While studying noise-induced and age-related hearing loss in NEOMED’s Hearing Research Focus Area, Bretland was introduced to the IPM program by Christine Dengler-Crish, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences — who became one of her mentors.

Researching a promising new hormone

Now, Bretland is working  Dr. Crish and with Sheila Fleming, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences who recently received a major Parkinson’s disease research grant from the Department of Defense. Bretland, Dr. Crish and Dr. Fleming are researching irisin, a hormone just discovered in 2012 that appears to have neuroprotective properties. The three scientists are investigating the effects of irisin on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases by looking at a number of disease states along the way.

“New science is being published about irisin every day,” says Bretland. “This area is extremely under-researched right now, so the fact that we can focus on it is very exciting. This fellowship will allow me to fully focus all of my efforts on this specific project.”

Grateful for support

“I’m very thankful for the donors and the opportunity to do something like this that is so novel in the research world. It’s very promising. I think that it will lead us to making great progress in these area of research,” says Bretland.

In addition to the Woll award, Bretland was granted $5,000 from NEOMED’s Neurodegenerative Disease and Aging Research Focus Area for lab supplies needed for her research.

Bretland said she’s also grateful for the ongoing support of Drs. Crish and Fleming.

“It is amazing having two strong women like that to look up to and realize a career in science is possible. I can be on that level. They’re very much fighting for females in science. I’m grateful to have women like them who really raise me up and push me to become as great as I can be,” says Bretland.

Bretland will begin the Alan and Janice Woll Graduate Assistant Fellowship in July 2020.