MSUToday
Published: April 28, 2014

Faculty conversations: 
Virginia Ayres

By: Alex Barhorst Residential and Hospitality Services barhors1@rhs.msu.eduContact(s): Tom Oswald Media Communications office: (517) 432-0920 cell: (517) 281-7129 Tom.Oswald@cabs.msu.edu

Passionate and enthusiastic about her research, Virginia Ayres says she never stops moving. She’s working to make sure no one else has to stop moving either.

“The condition we’re looking to reverse is commonly known as paralysis,” said Ayres, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “Central nervous system injuries are extraordinarily hard to heal, but we’re making great progress.”

Ayres said the cause of paralysis is the formation of a scar along the central nervous system after an injury is sustained. Too much of this type of scar can prevent the regeneration of neurons and, consequently, prevent movement.

“A lot of people are interested in the regeneration of neurons across the scar area,” Ayres said. “You want a bit of a scar to keep out the outside, but not so much that you cause a complete blockage, so we’re using a bridge environment to try and coax cells into being convinced that they’re happy.”

Prior to coming to MSU, Ayres worked for the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation and more. She has dabbled in many scientific disciplines in her well-traveled career.

“It was just a matter of which ‘ology’ it was going to be,” Ayres said. “Some of us are born with a fascination for the natural world around us.”

Ayres enjoys the collaborative working environment at MSU. She said students and faculty members from other departments have been essential parts of advancing her research.

“The amount of teamwork that happens here has been an enormous help to me,” Ayres said. “I’ve gotten what I wanted out of my move into academia and my choice to come to MSU.”

Virginia Ayres, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, talks about her work attempting to reverse paralysis.

Virginia Ayres, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, talks about her work attempting to reverse paralysis.

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