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Kaela S. Singleton, PhD

(she/her/hers)

I am a Black, Samoan, and Queer developmental neuroscientist completing my postdoctoral training at Emory University. Currently, I am a NINDS DSPAN scholar, an adjunct professor at Agnes Scott College, a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Postdoctoral Enrichment fellow as well as co-founder and President-Elect of Black In Neuro. As a postdoc in the Faundez Lab, I investigate mitochondria integrity and localization in Menkes Disease, a progressive form of childhood neurodegeneration that is triggered by dysregulation of copper.

In May 2021, I celebrated 365 days of earning my doctorate, surviving 2020, and a long list of other professional goals. As an early career scientist and future independent investigator, my goal is to encourage, inspire, and support trainees to pursue careers in neuroscience and build a sense of belonging within the scientific community.

Postdoctoral Fellow, Faundez Lab
Department of Cell Biology, Emory University
kaela.singleton@emory.edu
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Rare Genetic Diseases, Nature’s Experiment on Human Development
Lee CE, Singleton KS, Wallin M, Faundez VF

Rare genetic diseases are the result of a continuous forward genetic screen that nature is conducting on humans. Here, we present epistemological and systems biology arguments highlighting the importance of studying these rare genetic diseases. We illustrate these principles discussing Menkes disease, an example of the discovery power afforded by rare diseases. Link

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Heterogeneous Expression of Nuclear Encoded Mitochondrial Genes Distinguishes Inhibitory and Excitatory Neurons
Wynne M*, Lane AR*, Singleton KS* Zlatic S, Gokhale A, Werner E, Duong D, Kwong J, Crocker A, Faundez F.

Despite the link between mitochondria and diseases with distinct anatomic and cellular patterns, how mitochondrial composition varies across brain regions and cell types remains poorly explored. Here, we analyze mitochondrial composition in different brain regions and cell types in adult mice, showing composition differs by region and cell lineage. Our work provides a resource of genes enriched in certain cell types or regions that improves our understanding of how mitochondrial composition influences brain function in health and disease. Link

Research

My research interests are driven by three key questions:

  • How are mature, unique neurons generated and maintained in the brain?

  • How do pathologic mechanisms disrupt molecular and cellular events during neuron generation and development?

  • Why do rare genetic diseases preponderantly affect the nervous system of children?

My graduate research focused on understanding the diverse role of Sox11 a transcription factor critical for neural development in mammalian and non-mammalian models. I identified downstream targets of Sox11 using RNA-sequencing, characterized Sox11-partner protein interactions, and established the domains responsible for Sox11 function both in vivo and in vitro

My postdoctoral research addresses the molecular and cellular events disrupted in Menkes disease, a progressive form of childhood neurodegeneration that is triggered by dysregulation of copper. I am investigating the role of mitophagy in mitochondrial retention seen in Menkes disease by using mouse and Drosophila models.

Teaching, Mentoring & Service Philosophies

“When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”

- Toni Morrison

My teaching, mentoring and service philosophies are rooted in my research interests. I believe the formation of a successful, productive researcher is comparable to the formation of a neuron. Both processes are driven by intrinsic and extrinsic factors, which interact to create a mature and unique individual. Regarding my own maturation into a scientist, my identity as a Black Queer woman represent intrinsic factors, while my experiences at an all-women’s college and in an interdisciplinary graduate program represent extrinsic factors. 

 

My career goals are enriched by the opportunity to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as representation and accountability within the field. My experiences in inclusive training environments contribute to my past and present ambition. As an independent researcher, I seek to ‘pay it forward’ by continuing to generate high-quality science, participating in the education and mentorship of students, and remaining active in service to my community.

Image by Joey Kyber