SNP Student Spotlight: Gabe Grullon

Gabe smiles in the lab.

Name                                Gabriel "Gabe" Grullon

Hometown                       Manhasset, NY

Major                                Neuroscience (Double Minor in Biology & Chemistry) (GwD Track)

Gabe Grullon is one of the students in the Summer Neuroscience Program (SNP), an eight-week Duke summer program that enables undergraduates to jumpstart their senior theses by working one-on-one with faculty mentors.

SNP helps enhance participants’ skills to become more concise and definitive communicators, as well as more aware of their audiences. “I really enjoyed the demonstration of how to mitigate the difficulty of communicating scientific matters with the public,” Grullon shared.

Strong communication is a tool that Grullon will apply as he continues to volunteer at local hospitals and medical centers in New York City. Grullon, who is half Dominican and feels invested in working with Latino communities. “Hispanics are an underrepresented demographic in the medical community, and I want to show children that anyone can reach a goal if they work really hard.”

Grullon’s research during SNP is the investigation of “whether IL34 directly impacts certain developmental functions in microglia, as well as which factors determine IL34 expression levels in the brain”. He is currently working on a study that explores the relationship between neuronal activity and IL34 expression in mice. The purpose is to observe if the activity levels of neurons alter IL34 levels artificially activating or inhibiting neurons through the use of a DREADD (designer receptor exclusively activating a designer drug) virus. He also hopes to explore contributors to Alzheimer’s’ disease through this research.

It’s honestly unbelievable that a place like this exists. It seems like a dream.

Grullon was exposed to microglia during high school and knew that he always wanted to major in STEM. “The neuroscience classes that I took were my most interesting and engaging courses,” he shared. “When I took a deeper look into the resources and started to work in the Bilbo Lab, choosing to major in neuroscience was an easy decision.”

Grullon asserts that choosing Duke was also one of his best decisions. "Everyone here works hard and is so focused and driven. I’m just like everyone else here, which I feel is something to be proud of!”

Grullon hopes to continue to transfer his talents from high school to the university. In addition to working in the oncology and neuroscience lab, he is a pianist and violinist and plays tennis and lacrosse. “The university’s location in the Research Triangle Park, the sports spirit, and diversity complement Duke’s unique faculty and resources. I could go on and on about all of the great resources and people here, but out of all the top schools that I toured, Duke has the most unique culture. Duke has allowed me to conduct research and study and be surrounded by some of the best labs and people. It’s honestly unbelievable to have a place like this. It seems like a dream.”

After graduation next year, Grullon plans to take a gap year and continue to research at a university or large pharmaceutical company while he completes his MCAT studies in preparation for medical school.