Jason Cooper

About Jason Cooper

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    Jason Cooper

    Undergraduate University: University of Texas (B.S. Biology and B.A. Philosophy)
  • Thesis: Genetics of aging and parkinson’s disease in C. elegans
  • Mentor: Jeremy Van Raamsdonk, Ph.D.
  • Experience: 2.5 years at clinical pathology laboratories, 1.5 years lab of Dr. Michael Mauk at UT
  • Conferences: 
    World Parkinson Congress (2013)
    Keystone Conference: Parkinson’s Disease (2014)
    International C. elegans Meeting (2015)
  • Hometown: Austin, TX
  • Hobbies: Playing piano, mountain biking, participating in triathlons

Schaar CE, Dues DJ, Spielbauer KK, Machiela E, Cooper JF, Senchuck M, Hekimi S, Van Raamsdonk JM. Mitochondrial and cytoplasmic ROS have opposing effects on lifespan. PLoS Genetics

Cooper JF, Dues DJ, Spielbauer KK, Machiela E, Senchuck M, Van Raamsdonk JM. Delaying aging is neuroprotective in Parkinson’s disease: a genetic analysis in C. elegans models. Nature Partner Journal Parkinson’s Disease. 2015; 1(1):15022.



How would you describe your area of study to your grandmother?

Since elderly people (almost) exclusively get Parkinson’s disease, I am studying the role of aging in this disease. Using organisms with genetic mutations that cause (or increase risk) for this Parkinson’s, I study how slowing down the aging process can help delay or prevent Parkinson’s disease.

What is your primary motivation for persevering through graduate school?

I think that my subject is very interesting. I like to think about questions like, “Why do organisms age?” and, “If everyone lived long enough would every individual get Parkinson’s disease?” or, “What molecular events inside the cell control the aging process?”

What do you want to do with your degree?

Someday I would like to have my own lab, but I want teaching to be a large component of my career.

Did you take time off before starting your Ph.D. degree or come directly from an undergraduate or master’s degree program?

I worked for about three years before graduate school for Clinical Pathology Labs, identifying bacterial, viral, and fungal pathogens in clinical samples from a hospital. I also took time to work with an old professor studying nesting patterns of birds native to central Texas.

How has your previous coursework contributed to your breadth of knowledge?

Definitely, I believe working in several fields has made me well rounded.

Do you think there is any value in social networking with other graduate students in non-related fields?

Absolutely, you never know where your next idea will come from or where it will take you.

How do you think earning an advanced degree will change your role in society?

I believe that my advanced degree provides a responsibility to educate the public in what I do and to work towards discoveries that impact human health.

Did your past experiences in life or education help prepare you for graduate school or did you have to develop different strategies to succeed?

Yes, both helped: my past experience gave me a foundation, but I learned I must adapt to every situation in which I find myself, otherwise I am not being challenged.

What is your favorite stress-reduction technique?

Making lists and crossing each item off the list.

What accomplishment (academic or other) are you most proud of?

In graduate school, submitting my first, first-author manuscript.

Are you involved in other community activities and if so, how have they shaped your graduate experience?

I am involved in setting up and running a lab in a local high school. Teaching others helps us realize how much we have to offer.

Has your perception of this Ph.D. program changed since you began the program?

My perception has not changed very much. This is a solid, small program with excellent resources and all the advantages that come with it.

If you were asked to put something in a time capsule for each year you have been in the program and this capsule would not be opened for 25 years, what would you contribute?

My P200 pipette

If you hadn’t been admitted to graduate school, what do you think you would be doing right now?

I would have ridden my bike across the country or until I had a clue what to do next.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about your doctoral education experience?

Graduate school is tough but worth it.