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Faculty feature Marta Celorrio

Marta Celorrio

Marta Celorrio, PhD, was born in a small town in Navarra, located in the northern region of Spain. During her childhood, she grew up surrounded by family, always playing with her siblings and cousins. Christmas was always a special time of the year for Celorrio in which she and her family would build the Nativity scene and sing carols. Because Celorrio’s strong family connection, she never imagined that someday she would live in a different country. For the last seven years, Celorrio has called St. Louis home (almost 11,000 km away from family) and participates in neuroscience research with the Friess lab.

Her passion for science started at a young age. During high school, an excellent teacher, Eva Ros, ignited Celorrio’s interest in biology. To increase her knowledge of natural sciences and chemistry, Celorrio entered pharmacy school between 2005-2010 at University of Navarre in Pamplona — the city most famous for the “running of the bulls” tradition. Shortly after pharmacy school started, she joined the Aymerich lab at the Centre for Applied Medical Research (CIMA) as an intern student to enhance her experience in research. Celorrio thoroughly enjoyed working in the Aymerich lab, and her time in the lab progressed from working four hours a week to a whole summer to a whole year as a master’s student to, eventually, completing her PhD in the lab. The Aymerich lab is primarily focused on Parkinson’s disease (PD) and neuroprotective therapies. Celorrio’s thesis was specifically focused on the identification of neuroprotective strategies modulating the endocannabinoid system for the treatment of PD. Celorrio recalls her PhD training as one of the most formidable experiences in her life, especially since Dr. Aymerich supported Celorrio’s research ambitions to achieve a postdoc position in the U.S.

Celorrio’s first postdoc experience was with Dr. Moron’s lab at Washington University in St Louis, where she focused on the role of the SK2 channel in opioid dependence. After a year and a half, Celorrio switched gears and began traumatic brain injury (TBI) research in Friess lab at the same institution. Celorrio, Dr. Friess and a former technician, Trey Rhodes, inaugurated the lab in the pediatric department in May 2017. Since then, the lab has progressively grown in data, papers, new undergraduate students and new postdocs (Kirill Shumilov), all of which have enriched the lab and the team. The Friess lab has felt like a home away from home for Celorrio, and, notably, two Spanish visiting PhD students from Dr. Aymerich’s lab (Leyre Ayerra and Miguel Angel Abellanas) had the opportunity to work at Washington University alongside Celorrio. Currently, Celorrio’s research is focused on studying the effects of gut-brain axis on neuroinflammation and recovery after TBI. In the middle of the pandemic (November 2020), Celorrio was hired as a research instructor in the Friess lab, giving Celorrio the opportunity to further in her impact in research. Moreover, Celorrio has discovered a real passion for TBI research during the last six years in the Friess lab. She is particularly proud of her work regarding the impact of brain-gut axis on neuroinflammation after TBI with cutting-edge flow cytometry analysis in the brain, meninges, choroid plexus, blood and intesting.

Family is extremely important to Celorrio, and she feels fortunate to have found a strong community that make St. Louis feel like home. Celorrio loves traveling, going out with her friends, exploring local brunch spots, shopping, cooking, meditating and hosting gatherings at her home. Additionally, Celorrio also belongs to a Catholic community (Neocatechumenal Way) at St Joseph Church (Manchester) in St Louis. At church, she enjoys singing, praying and playing the guitar and clarinet. She feels very close to God, and her faith has provided her much support throughout her life. Celorrio likes to say, “Finding God in the surprises,” and this is evident by Celorrio’s ability to always be grateful for the many blessings in her life, even during difficult times. Overall, Celorrio has proved that she can achieve anything her heart desires with hard work, lots of love and prayer.