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Congratulations to Dr. Maria Alejandra Llanes Cuesta on Successfully Defending her PhD Thesis!

Alejandra with her advisory committee. From left to right: Dr. Ko, Dr. Miller, Dr. Siddiqui, Dr. Andreazza, and Dr. Wang.

Following her BSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Havana, Cuba, in 2016, Alejandra joined the Ph.D. program in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics under the supervision of Dr. Jun-Feng Wang. There, she studied the role of the thioredoxin system in chronic corticosterone treatment-impaired neuronal differentiation and enhanced neurodegeneration, as well as its implications for the development of stress-related disorders. Particularly, she explored how the antioxidant thioredoxin protein (Trx) regulates neuronal differentiation and survival in primary mouse cortical neurons by promoting the CREB-neurotrophic pathway and downregulating the ASK1-apoptotic pathway. She also investigated how the thioredoxin-interacting protein (Txnip), an endogenous inhibitor of Trx, mediates chronic corticosterone-impaired neurite outgrowth and induces neuronal damage in primary mouse cortical neurons. Finally, she studied how Txnip mediates chronic corticosterone-induced depressive-like behaviors and cognitive decline in male and female mice.
Throughout her Ph.D., Alejandra excelled academically and received prestigious scholarships and awards, including the Mark Nickerson Studentship in Pharmacology, Research Manitoba Master’s Studentship, Faculty of Graduate Studies Research Completion Scholarship, and Emerging Leader Award. Her recent publication in Neuroscience was a notable highlight of her academic journey.
In addition to her academic work, Alejandra was actively involved in student governance as the HSGSA student councilor for her department and participated in various volunteer activities within the community. We look forward to witnessing Alejandra’s continued success and future achievements in her professional and academic journey.