Professor Gray: Simmons Fosters Confidence

July 20, 2017

Bruce Gray

We caught up with Professor Bruce Gray about all things Biology!

What do you teach at Simmons?

I currently teach courses in Biology, including Animal Physiology, Behavioral Biology, Neurobiology and Neuroscience Seminar. The last three courses are also in the Neuroscience and Behavior major, which I share coordination of with Dr. Rachel Galli in Psychology

I'm looking forward to teaching an integrated course that combines Advanced General Biology and Advanced General Chemistry with Dr. Berger as part of a new Learning Community for PLAN this fall. 

What's your favorite class to teach?

I would have to say Neurobiology — it's an area that's changing so rapidly, and includes such a wide variety of fields. The lab includes learning how to read various brain images for pathology, working on live cells, and seeing real image analysis in Emergency Rooms at Boston Medical Center. I love having student teams share data in the lab and argue about their conclusions!

What's one thing you wish people knew about Biology?  

The fantastic array of research experiences students can get involved with throughout their time at Simmons.

Tell us about your research.

My lab is studying neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease and glaucoma. In both of these diseases, neurons are associated with aggregates of a peptide called beta Amyloid. Our lab has discovered that these aggregates can work to modulate neurotransmitter release, but in a normal, non-pathological manner.  I am very interested in what causes beta Amyloid to become toxic and lead to cell death.  

One new tool we have discovered is a molecule called curcumin, a main ingredient in the spice turmeric. Curcumin can modify Amyloid’s effect on transmitter release but not its toxicity. So, now we can begin to narrow down the cellular mechanism underlying toxicity. This information can help clinicians and pharmaceutical labs to develop medication to slow or prevent Alzheimer’s cognitive decline.

What's your favorite thing about your students?

The most important joy I get from my job is working with students in my research lab. I get to see them grow their confidence as budding scientists. We interact as an extended family —  traveling to conferences, arguing over theories and experimental priorities, and even playing ridiculous games. 

Do you have a hidden talent?

It's so hidden, even I haven’t found it yet! 

What's your Simmons moment?

It's hard to pick just one Simmons moment, because I've had so many. There was the moment when I saw my students speak before scientists at a national meeting, or when students changed my mind on an experimental design in a lab meeting, or when former students got national recognition for their work in neuroscience and medicine. 

I've had so many moments where I've seen my students overcome their fears. It’s the Simmons environment that has fostered those moments.