Julie Saugstad, Ph.D.

Julie Saugstad

Julie Saugstad, Ph.D.

Oregon Health & Science University
3181 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Road
Portland, OR 97239
Mail Code: L459


Dr. Saugstad is a Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine (APOM) Research Division at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). She is also an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Molecular & Medical Genetics (MMG) at OHSU. As a US Air Force dependent, Dr. Saugstad lived in many places growing up. She earned her PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, OK. After completing a Postdoctoral fellowship at the Vollum Institute at OHSU, she joined the Department of Pharmacology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA as a Research Assistant Professor. She then joined the Legacy Research Institute in Portland, OR in 2000, and joined OHSU as an Associate Professor in 2012. Dr. Saugstad is faculty in the OHSU Program in Molecular and Cellular Biology and the Neuroscience Graduate Program. Her research is focused on cellular and molecular mechanisms of signaling in the brain. Her lab is currently studying a role for microRNAs in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma as biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease (AD). They are also studying the contribution of extracellular vesicles (EVs) and their cargo as mediators of intercellular communication, and their potential role in altered signaling in dementia. Her lab has identified sex differences in EVs and their cargo, which may underlie the predisposition of AD in females vs. males. Further, the microRNA studies have extended to examine the potential of CSF microRNAs as biomarkers of AD risk following traumatic brain injury (TBI), of importance to military war veterans exposed to blast injury. Her current research is funded by the NIH, and recent past research generously funded by the DoD and the OHSU Center for Women's Health Circle of Giving.

Sarah Catherine Baker, M.S.

Sarah Baker

Sarah Catherine Baker joined the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine as a Graduate Student in the Saugstad laboratory in April 2020. She earned her B.S in Biological Sciences, as well as a supplementary degree in English Literature, from the University of Notre Dame in 2018. She next pursued an M.S. in Global Health from Trinity College Dublin, and graduated in September 2019. She began her PhD at OHSU in the Program of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and later joined the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology.

In the Saugstad lab, Sarah Cate is exploring the role of extracellular vesicles in neurodegenerative disease. By exploring their protein, lipid, and microRNA content, she is hoping to better understand how extracellular vesicles are altered by neurodegeneration, and whether they contribute to disease pathology. In addition to working on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, Sarah Cate is also applying the lab’s expertise to Niemann Pick’s Disease Type C, a rare form of neurodegeneration that primarily affects children.

Sierra Smith, B.A

Sierra Smith

Sierra Smith joined the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine as a Graduate Student in the Saugstad laboratory in August of 2019. She earned her B.A in Neuroscience from Lake Forest College in 2017. She then was a Northwestern University Interdepartmental Neuroscience PREP Scholar in Dr. Rajeshwar Awatramani’s Lab. Sierra joined the Neuroscience Graduate Program at OHSU in 2018 and is now in her 2nd year.

As a member of the Saugstad team, Sierra is interested in using bioinformatics to analyze large datasets to identify potential target proteins involved in disease mechanisms, particularly as related to the miRNA biomarker work by the lab focused on Alzheimer’s disease. She is also interested in characterizing extracellular vesicles from distinct human biofluids using proteomic methodologies.

Trevor McFarland

Trevor McFarland

Trevor McFarland joined the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine as a Senior Research Associate in the Dr. Saugstad laboratory in October of 2019. Trevor earned his undergraduate degree in Microbiology from the University of Maine – Orono in 2000. Trevor began his career at OHSU in 2001 at the Casey Eye Institute in Dr. Tim Stout’s Lab studying gene therapy for proliferative ocular disease. In 2014, he took a management position with the Gene Profiling Shared Resource, under director Dr. Chris Harrington, assisting OHSU investigators with various molecular and genetic techniques offered by the service core.

Currently, as a member of Julie Saugstad’s lab, Trevor supports the research focused on extracellular vesicles and miRNA associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Most recent efforts have been involved in identifying miRNA biomarkers from various human biofluids to aid in the early diagnosis and disease progression. Further research studying cellular uptake and characterization of extracellular vesicles is ongoing.

Ursula Sandau, Ph.D.

Ursula Sandau

Dr. Sandau is an Instructor within the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine. She joined the department in February of 2017 as a Senior Research Associate in Dr. Julie Saugstad’s laboratory. She earned her B.S., a double major in Genetics and Medical Microbiology & Immunology, from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1998. She then attended Colorado State University and earned her PhD in the field of Biomedical Neurosciences in 2006. She completed her postdoctoral training in Dr. Sergio Ojeda’s laboratory at the Oregon National Primate Research Center. Prior to joining APOM, she was a Research Associate at Legacy Research Institute.

Now as a faculty member within APOM, Dr. Sandau continues to work with Dr. Saugstad on projects aimed to identify microRNAs in extracellular vesicles of Alzheimer’s disease patients that may provide insight to the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Sandau also collaborates with the OHSU Methamphetamine Research Center on studies aimed to discover and validate biosignatures for neuropsychiatric impairments associated with addiction. The biosignatures will be based on profile of extracellular vesicles and their miRNA cargo in plasma.

Dr. Julie Saugstad was awarded a 2020 University Shared Resources grant to carry out proteomic analysis of extracellular vesicles isolated from matched cerebrospinal fluid and plasma samples from the same individuals. The studies will be performed at the OHSU Proteomics Shared Resource and the data will be analyzed using a new Data Independent Analysis mass spectrometry technique.

In April 2019, Cell published several papers from the Extracellular RNA Communication Consortium, including one coauthored by Dr. Julie Saugstad titled The Extracellular RNA Communication Consortium: Establishing Foundational Knowledge and Technologies for Extracellular RNA Research (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2019.03.023).

In June 2019, Dr. Ursula Sandau was awarded the first place prize in Basic Research at the 4th Annual APOM Research & Quality Day for her poster titled Discovery & Validation of MicroRNA Biomarkers for Alzheimer’ Disease in Human Cerebrospinal Fluid.

In 2019, Sierra Smith was named one of 10 ARCS Foundation Scholars at OHSU by the ARCS Oregon Chapter. The ARCS Foundation is a national women’s group that aids advancement in science and technology by fostering development of new scientists and engineers in the United States.

When Sierra Smith joined NGP in 2018 she was awarded the Promising Scholars Award, a scholarship meant to support highly qualified incoming graduate students from diverse backgrounds who add to the academic and scholarly excellence of the University.