What do you do?
I research a disease called temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), which is defined by the appearance of unprovoked, spontaneous, and recurrent seizures. Many different anti-seizure drugs (ASD) are available to treat TLE; however, they fail to control seizures in 1/3 of patients. Even when they are effective, ASDs can produce significant psychiatric and behavioral side effects. Since there are no clinically proven preventatives for epilepsy patients, there is a tremendous unmet need for new treatments for people at risk for developing the disease. Therefore, the purpose of my research is to investigate potential targets for anti-epileptogenic therapy development.
Why did you choose this field?
I was diagnosed with epilepsy as a young child. I had challenges in all aspects of my life. The main obstacle that I struggled with was living with a constant fear of having a seizure as a child, teen, and young adult. I was afraid of everything. One day, I decided "enough was enough," and I conquered my seizure anxiety to pursue a science career to understand my abnormally wired brain. It is difficult to pursue a professional career as a person with epilepsy. I continuously struggle with seizure clusters, memory issues, and other co-morbidities that accompany epilepsy, but I continue to persist. I graduated with my B.S. in Neuroscience and Biology at Baldwin Wallace University and immediately decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. I would not change any part of my journey, and I am excited for what the future holds for the next stage of my career.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
Generally, I wish that all children and young adults with epilepsy know that everything will be alright. I know that is an extremely cliché thing to say, but that is what I needed to hear as a child with epilepsy in a hospital bed. If you had told me a decade ago that I would be a neuroscientist and advocate in the epilepsy community, I would not have believed you. I remember the day that I was accepted into my Ph.D. program, and I had a hard time thinking that was even true. Everything that I have been able to accomplish has genuinely been a blessing, and I never take anything for granted.
Why do you love working in STEM?
There is never a dull day in STEM. Each day provides new opportunities to learn, collaborate, and innovate.
Best advice for next generation?
I believe scientists are often described as "weird, nerdy, and boyish." When I first entered the STEM field, I had a colleague tell me that they were going to "knock the girl out of me." Thankfully, my colleague didn't intimidate my self-image. I cannot tell you that I'm not nerdy, but I am girly! You do not have to change who you are to pursue a career in science.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less" ~ Marie Curie