Research Advisor: Christophe Ribelayga, McGovern Medical School at UT Health
“Vision governs much of how organisms perceive the world, and the ability of the brain to extract meaningful information from an incredibly rich environment and construct our perception is fascinating to me,” said senior Neuroscience major Jake Bhoi.
Bhoi studies neural circuits in the McGovern Medical School research lab run by Christophe Ribelayga. With just 3-5 synapses, the retinal circuit “performs complex computations that allow us to perceive things like color, contrast, and direction of motion,” he explained. Bhoi seeks to understand this by exploring “How daily rhythms in protein and gene expression alter the synaptic circuitry of the retina and how these alterations allow organisms to adapt to changing environmental conditions that happen daily,” he said.
Through his project, Bhoi discovered “that the expression of a specific synaptic protein was oscillating according to the time of day in individual cone photoreceptors,” he stated. “Functionally, this could have profound impacts on how the cone transmits signals to the other retinal cell types, potentially accounting for differences in visual perception during the day compared at night.”
This could have broad implications beyond vision and the retina: “Most neurons and most cells in the body have their own circadian clocks which modulate gene and protein expression, but the mechanism through which cell signaling is controlled by the clock is unclear. By using the retina as a model, I could uncover a much more general process which could be super cool!” Bhoi pointed out.
“My favorite thing about my major is the ability to do independent research as part of the major. I think I’ve learned the most from my opportunities to deeply engage with scientific research and discovery, and the Neuroscience major facilitates and encourages that!” said Bhoi.
Bhoi also believes that Rice offers numerous opportunities to forge connections with professors for advice on research, academics, and personal life alike. One of the Resident Associates at Bhoi’s residential college, Simon Fischer-Baum, particularly impacted Bhoi’s Rice experience. “Dr. Fischer-Baum exemplifies an attitude that is shared among professors in the Neuroscience program, and all of Rice — they’re really there to help students succeed and will go out of their way to make sure students can achieve their goals,” he said.
The opportunity to pursue research projects in the Texas Medical Center strongly influenced Bhoi’s decision to attend Rice. “I wanted to do research and Rice is a part of the biggest medical center in the world, so you can really do almost any kind of research you want to,” he said. “But something I didn’t consider but that I’ve found is probably the biggest strength of Rice is that it is a great place to be a student. In my experience, Rice has been a very non-competitive environment. It is academically rigorous, but the people in classes I’ve taken are very collaborative and always willing to help each other.”
Bhoi has been involved in student government and planning social events for his residential college, McMurtry. Outside his leadership roles, Bhoi said, “I love watching movies and trash reality TV with my friends, and I also like to play a lot of IM sports — especially volleyball and soccer.”
“I think it’s really easy to fall into the idea that you should be studying all the time and doing things to make sure you’ll be a good candidate for jobs, grad school, med school, etc.,” said Bhoi, “But for me, taking a step back and making sure I did all the things I was interested in really helped me develop as a person and build a strong community of friends that I’ll be able to turn to for the rest of my life. And then by finding this balance, I feel like I was really able to excel as a whole person.”