Sarah Petersen joined the faculty of Kenyon College in 2016 and teaches in the Departments of Neuroscience and Biology. She has used genetic techniques in a variety of model organisms to characterize the molecular mechanisms that set up a properly functioning nervous system. Currently, her research group uses zebrafish to understand the interactions between neurons and glia and their environments during neurodevelopment. Their work in this field is supported by a National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

Prior to Kenyon, Petersen was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Developmental Biology at Washington University at St. Louis. She has also taught in the Citizen Science Program at Bard College and served as a co-coordinator of the Zebrafish Development & Genetics Course at the Marine Biological Laboratory.

Areas of Expertise

Neurodevelopment, myelinating glia, synaptic plasticity

Education

2011 — Doctor of Philosophy from Vanderbilt University

2004 — Bachelor of Science from University of Tennessee: Marti

Courses Recently Taught

This is the first laboratory course a student takes and is a prerequisite for all upper-division laboratory courses. Students are introduced to the processes of investigative biology and scientific writing. It is not designed to accompany any particular core lecture course. Laboratories cover topics presented in the core lecture courses, BIOL 115 and 116, and introduce a variety of techniques and topics, including field sampling, microscopy, PCR, gel electrophoresis, enzyme biochemistry, physiology, evolution and population biology. The course emphasizes the development of inquiry skills through active involvement in experimental design, data collection and management, statistical analysis, integration of results with information reported in the literature, and writing in a format appropriate for publication. The year culminates in six-week student-designed investigations that reinforce the research skills developed during the year. Evaluation is based on laboratory notebooks, lab performance, and scientific papers, as well as oral and written presentations summarizing the independent project. Enrollment is limited to 16 students in each section. Students enrolled in this course will be automatically added to BIOL 110Y for the spring semester. Prerequisite: completion or concurrent enrollment in BIOL 115 or equivalent. Required for the major.

This is the first laboratory course a student takes and is a prerequisite for all upper-division laboratory courses. Students are introduced to the processes of investigative biology and scientific writing. It is not designed to accompany any particular core lecture course. Laboratories cover topics presented in the core lecture courses, BIOL 115 and 116, and introduce a variety of techniques and topics, including field sampling, microscopy, PCR, gel electrophoresis, enzyme biochemistry, physiology, evolution and population biology. The course emphasizes the development of inquiry skills through active involvement in experimental design, data collection, statistical analysis, integration of results with information reported in the literature and writing in a format appropriate for publication. The year culminates in six-week student-designed investigations that reinforce the research skills developed during the year. Evaluation is based on short reports, quizzes, lab performance and scientific papers, as well as oral and written presentations based on the independent project. Enrollment is limited to 16 students in each section. Prerequisite: completion or concurrent enrollment in BIOL 115 or equivalent. Required for the major.

The study of the nervous system is a field that has experienced explosive growth in the past few decades. This course is designed to introduce the student to modern neurobiology by covering the basic foundations as well as the latest results from current research. Subject matter will range from the biophysics of membranes and ion channels, through sensory integration and simple behaviors, to the development of the nervous system. Rather than cover a wide variety of topics superficially, we will concentrate more time on selected topics that illustrate the current thinking of neurobiologists. Experience in math and/or physics is strongly recommended. This counts toward the upper-level organismal biology/physiology requirement for the major. Prerequisite: BIOL 116 and at least one biology lecture course at the 200-level or one 300-level NEUR lecture course. Generally offered every other year.

The study of the nervous system is a field that has experienced explosive growth in the past few decades. This course is designed to introduce the student to modern neurobiology by covering the basic foundations as well as the latest results from current research. Subject matter will range from the biophysics of membranes and ion channels, through sensory integration and simple behaviors, to the development of the nervous system. Rather than cover a wide variety of topics superficially, we will concentrate more time on selected topics that illustrate the current thinking of neurobiologists. Experience in math and/or physics is strongly recommended. This counts toward the upper-level organismal biology/physiology requirement for the major. Prerequisite: BIOL 116 and at least one biology lecture course at the 200-level or one 300-level NEUR lecture course. Generally offered every other year.

This is a laboratory designed to complement the lecture course. We will concentrate either on the different intracellular and extracellular electrophysiological recording techniques commonly used in the field to illustrate both motor and sensory aspects of nervous-system function or on the molecular aspects of nervous system function molecular. We will conclude with a series of independent projects that will bring together the ideas covered earlier in the course. Prerequisite: BIOL 109Y-110Y. Prerequisite or corequisite: BIOL 358. Generally offered every other year. This counts toward the upper level laboratory requirement.

This is a laboratory designed to complement the lecture course. We will concentrate either on the different intracellular and extracellular electrophysiological recording techniques commonly used in the field to illustrate both motor and sensory aspects of nervous-system function or on the molecular aspects of nervous system function molecular. We will conclude with a series of independent projects that will bring together the ideas covered earlier in the course. Prerequisite: BIOL 109Y-110Y. Prerequisite or corequisite: BIOL 358. Generally offered every other year. This counts toward the upper level laboratory requirement.

This course begins with a definition of neuroscience as an interdisciplinary field, in the context of the philosophy of science. After covering the basics of cellular neurophysiology, the course examines the development and organization of the human nervous system in terms of sensory, motor, motivational, emotional and cognitive processes. The neurological and biochemical bases of various brain and behavioral disorders also are examined. It is strongly recommended that BIOL 115 or 116 is taken as a prerequisite or corequisite or have an AP score of 5 in biology. This course paired with any .50 unit neuroscience course counts toward the natural science diversification requirement. No prerequisite.

This course builds upon foundational concepts in neuroscience and biology to study key genes and signaling pathways that drive development, maintenance, communication, and plasticity of neurons and glia. Basic principles covered include differential gene expression in the nervous system, biochemical properties of ion channels and receptors and the role of regulatory/transport proteins in neurons and glia. We will apply these and other concepts to sensory, motor and behavioral aspects of the nervous system, studying both normal and abnormal development and function in model organisms. The course emphasizes understanding historical and modern experimental design and molecular techniques. Critical reading and discussion of primary literature is an integral part of this class. This counts toward an elective for the major. This course paired with any neuroscience course counts toward the natural science diversification requirement. Prerequisite: NEUR 212 and BIOL 116.

This combined discussion and laboratory course aims to develop abilities for asking sound research questions, designing reasonable scientific approaches to answer such questions, and performing experiments to test both the design and the question. We consider how to assess difficulties and limitations in experimental strategies due to design, equipment, system selected, and so on. The course provides a detailed understanding of selected modern research equipment. Students select their own research problems in consultation with one or more neuroscience faculty members. This course is designed both for those who plan to undertake honors research in their senior year and for those who are not doing honors but who want some practical research experience. A student can begin the research in either semester. If a year of credit is earned, it may be applied toward the research methods course requirement for the major. This course is repeatable for up to 1.50 units of credit. Permission of instructor required. This course, taken twice, paired with any other .50 unit neuroscience course counts toward the natural science diversification requirement. Prerequisite: BIOL 109Y-110Y and NEUR 212.

This capstone seminar is required of all students who plan to graduate with a neuroscience concentration or major. The seminar is intended to bring together the knowledge acquired from courses required for, or relevant to, the concentration and major. During the course of the semester, each student will write an integrative paper with input from the instructor. Oral presentations are given in conjunction with each of these exercises. This course paired with any other .50 unit neuroscience course counts toward the natural science requirement. Neuroscience majors are expected to have completed NEUR 250 before enrolling in NEUR 471. Permission of instructor is required. Prerequisite: Neuroscience major or concentrator with senior standing, NEUR 212, and at least one 300-level neuroscience course.\n