Dr. Cagla pronounced “Challa” or other acceptable name: Mother of Astrocytes

Dr. Cagla Eroglu PI, runs an organized and efficient lab very unlike Daenerys season 8. Also debatably unlike the Mother of Dragons, Cagla, Mother of Astrocytes, enjoys working with her lab members. Outside of weekly meetings, She schedules one-on-one meetings with each of her mentees  in order to keep updated on their research and to offer guidance. Cagla often posts literature relevant to folks projects on the lab’s communication app along with a picture of a moose or possibly some ducks. Working with students is really meaningful to Cagla. She learns a lot from them and she gives sage advice and wisdom in order to help them. Cagla recognizes that we really do not know much about mechanisms of the brain and biology processes. She is adamant that one of the most important things she does is to help her students in how to interpret the data they receive, whether that means using existing theories or challenging the current beliefs as they may very well be incorrect. This philosophy has manifested in a lab of individuals who are open minded and thoughtful about their work.

I had the opportunity to interview this incredible individual to learn to hear her talk passionately about what I had observed in her interactions with lab members. Originally from Turkey, Cagla’s mother was a scientist so she grew up running experiments and doing scientisty things. In her close proximity to research, she held the misconception that most people wanted to do science. Realizing that was not the case heightened her interest in STEM, so she continued on that path in her undergraduate studies. She felt the all too familiar pressure to become either a doctor or an engineer and decided to major in chemical engineering. This intense training provided her with a strong background in math, physics, and chemistry. All of these subjects, she says, have helped support her research endeavors and her training also taught her not to be afraid to apply new procedures, instruments, and technology to her experiments if they might provide better results.

Cagla really wanted to be in biology, so after graduating with a degree in chemical engineering, she pursued a Master’s degree in biology. As she had only learned intro level biology in Undergrad, she had to work hard to learn all of the biological processes. Despite the challenges in entering the field of biology, she was impassioned and determined to continue learning. She was fortunate enough to enter a PhD program in Germany for international students. The labs in Germany collaborated often sharing equipment and ideas. Cagla emphasized the importance of this environment, as it engenders greater exchange of ideas between people. Cagla worked on her PhD on the glutamate receptors on neurons. Her work on cellular receptors lead her to glial cells. She wanted to understand cell-cell connections and glial-neuron interactions were of particular interest to her. In order to pursue this line of study, she entered a lab at Stanford University for her Post-Doctoral Fellowship. This lab was well established allowing her to conduct new and exciting research on astrocytes that launched her career. Fortunately, this lead her to Duke where the Eroglu lab is now known for its work demonstrating how astrocytes secrete factors that cause synapse formation and maturation.  

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