Thursday, March 28, 2019

Neuroscience doctoral candidate Brittany Williams loves conducting research, work that she likens to solving a complex puzzle. Through the support of mentors and the welcoming environment at the University of Iowa, she hopes to help those who suffer from visual impairments.

Brittany Williams is familiar with the saying “Great minds think alike.” But it’s nowhere near her favorite quote—she prefers a different take on what’s good about collaboration.

“To me, this rings more true: Different minds coming together can do something great,” says Williams, a PhD candidate in the University of Iowa neuroscience program. “Getting input from numerous perspectives, putting forth ideas that explore every aspect, that’s what makes science truly great.”

Williams has found that sort of camaraderie at the University of Iowa, where she conducts research in the lab overseen by Amy Lee, a professor of molecular physiology and biophysics, neurology, and otolaryngology in the Carver College of Medicine. 

In Lee’s lab, Williams studies a particular protein—Cav1.4—that is vital in transmitting initial visual information from the retina to the brain. Mutations in this protein are linked to visual impairments such as “night blindness,” which makes it difficult to see in relatively low light. Everyday tasks like driving a vehicle or navigating the hallways and rooms of your house can become daunting challenges.

“We don’t know how this protein is normally regulated, or why mutations lead to visual impairments,” Williams says. “I hope my research will lead to future therapies or corrective strategies for individuals who suffer from these detrimental impairments.”

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