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Snapshot: Samantha Spierling



Snapshot: Samantha Spierling

By Natalie Baker

Position: Second-year graduate student in the laboratory of Associate Professor Eric Zorrilla in the Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders (CNAD) at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI).

Research: Spierling’s research focuses on understanding the neurobiology of compulsive binge eating and the interactions with metabolic state. To achieve this, she has established a model of binge-like eating and has used optogenetic silencing to identify neuronal projections involved in modulating this behavior.

Background: Spierling graduated from the University of Michigan (UM), where she received her undergraduate degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology and her Master’s in Biomedical Engineering. During her time at UM, she was a member of Malcolm Low's neuroendocrinology laboratory, where she studied the eating and learning phenotypes of genetic mouse models of obesity. In addition, Spierling worked with the Department of Neurosurgery to develop a medical device for use in awake craniotomies.

Arrived at TSRI: July 2015

Thoughts on TSRI: “TSRI is an incredibly collaborative environment. Having the willingness, expertise, and resources of the labs within the CNAD department and at TSRI has been indispensable for my work and my growth as a scientist. TSRI's flexible and customizable curriculum and rotation schedule allowed me to focus on the project that eventually became my dissertation research focus from the very start. Because of my ability to get on such a focused trajectory, I advanced to Ph.D. candidacy in just one year and have already been able to present my work at multiple scientific meetings, including internationally.”

Awards/Accomplishments: Spierling recently received an Early Career Forum award from the Endocrine Society.

Professional and Volunteer Groups: Spierling is heavily involved with ScrippsAssists, TSRI’s community outreach and volunteer group, where she’s served as the project lead for the American Heart Association and for TSRI’s ongoing monthly project serving lunch at a residential shelter in downtown San Diego. She is also a member of the Network for Women in Science (NWiS).

Thoughts on ScrippsAssists: “Volunteering and giving back to the community has always been very important to me, and I was eager to meet others at TSRI who have similar interests. In relocating to a new city for graduate school, getting involved as a volunteer helped me adapt to and further appreciate a new community.”

Other Extracurricular Activities: Spierling dedicates at least one hour of every day to her yoga practice, even if it means her being up well before the sun rises.

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Graduate Student Samantha Spierling (Photo by Madeline McCurry-Schmidt.)