Doctoral student wins prestigious research fellowship

Melissa Martin, a Florida State biomedical doctoral student.

Florida State University doctoral student Melissa Martin could be one step closer to achieving her goal of becoming a funded research scientist after winning a prestigious research fellowship that will take her to Paris.

As a Chateaubriand Fellow, Martin will study live cell imaging techniques that will allow her to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in neuron migration during early brain development.

The Chateaubriand Fellowship is sponsored by the Embassy of France in the United States, which offers U.S. doctoral students in STEM disciplines the opportunity to participate in research in a French lab. The six-month fellowship includes travel expenses, health insurance and a $1,400-a-month stipend.

“I’m hoping that what I learn in Paris, which includes really great techniques, I’ll be able to apply to the research we are doing here at the FSU College of Medicine,” said Martin, a student in the College of Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Sciences. “I’ll be able to get a really good publication out of it that is both interesting and medically relevant.”

And, with that, she’ll be a better candidate for both research funding of her own and, eventually, an interesting postdoctoral position.

Martin is a student of distinguished neuroscientist Professor Pradeep Bhide, director of the Center for Brain Repair at the College of Medicine and the Jim and Betty Ann Rodgers Eminent Scholar Chair of Developmental Neuroscience.

“He studies developmental disorders, so it was everything I was interested in,” said Martin, who received a master’s in neuroscience from FSU in 2011 before taking a job doing toxicology and chemistry for Dow Chemical Co. in Midland, Mich., about 30 minutes from her hometown of Essexville, Mich.

The decision to set her sights on a place in Bhide’s lab was a good one for Martin.

Christine Métin, a scientist at the Institut du Fer à Moulin in Paris, has collaborated with Bhide on previous research. She contacted him to see if he knew of any good candidates for the Chateaubriand Fellowship, which receives hundreds of applications each year for 30 available positions.

“My research collaboration with Dr. Métin is very closely related to the research project Melissa was proposing for her graduate thesis work,” Bhide said. “Therefore, when Christine mentioned the Chateaubriand Fellowship, Melissa was my natural choice. I knew also that Melissa would enjoy the challenge and training opportunities associated with working with Christine in the preparation of the application, and eventually performing new research in Christine’s lab in Paris.”

At the Institut du Fer à Moulin, where research centers on the development and plasticity of the nervous system, Martin plans to learn Métin’s expertise in the live cell imaging technique — a technological skill not yet employed in Bhide’s lab.

In Bhide’s lab, Martin studies inhibitory and excitatory dopamine receptors and the neurological effects of prenatal nicotine exposure.

Martin believes the combination of what she’ll learn through the fellowship and what she is learning from Bhide will prepare her for her career goals.

“I want to apply my knowledge of developmental disorders, in combination with epigenetics research, to people,” she said. “And to understand, for example, what is happening with increased risk of autism.”

Visit the Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards to learn more about external awards and resources at FSU and for assistance during the application process.