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ISU Panorama. Photo by Chuck Peterson.
Jessica Whitaker

Jessica Whitaker

Advisor: Jason Pilarski
Degree: PhD Biology


2016, M.S. Molecular, Cellular, and Systemic Physiology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL
2014, B.S. Zoology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL

Biographical Sketch

I grew up on a farm in southern Illinois and always loved animals. While studying zoology at SIUC, I discovered that I was most interested in how animal behavior is produced by the nervous system and shaped by experience, especially during early embryonic development. These interests brought me to Jason Pilarski's lab here at ISU.

Current Research

My research involves identifying the specific mechanisms that allow bioelectric rhythms for breathing to persist and adapt to altered sensory experience in the context of prenatal and perinatal development. Specifically, I am interested in describing how CO2 and pH affect rhythmogenesis in the altricial zebra finch brainstem in vitro and how exposure to CO2 during incubation affects the development of neural circuits that control respiration. This research will contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms underlying homeostatic plasticity and provide novel insights into the development of central chemosensitivity in the zebra finch.

Teaching Experience

TA, Southern Illinois Bridges to the Baccalaureate