Brittany Williams, PhD
Current position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Philpot lab; Neuroscience Center, Cell Biology and Physiology, and Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities; University of North Carolina
Highlights during grad school: My favorite memories (highlights) during grad school lies within the phenomenal Neuroscience program. The neuroscience program at UI is not only known for generating awesome scientist but is also known for creating long-lasting memories. My favorite memories surround Dr. Daniel Tranel. Dan values great science but he also makes it his duty to ensure that ALL students feel at home, loved, welcomed, and heard. Every major holiday Dan opened his home to all. We would get together, eat great food, play games, and listen to Dan sing and play the heck out of his guitar! I learned so many cool tunes from Dan. Dan is the face of the neuroscience program and he is an outstanding mentor! He makes time for everyone no matter what.
Describe your research: My work focuses on two aims: First, my work aims to understand how the overexpression of UBE3A impacts neurodevelopment and contributes to the manifestation of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and associated epilepsy. Second, I am building upon my previous training in the retina to study a rare form of retinitis pigmentosa (a form of vision impairment) and to help develop a CRISPR-Cas9 base editing strategy to potentially fix the missense mutations underlying the retinal dysfunction.
What advice do you have for a graduate student looking to obtain a postdoctoral fellowship? My advice for is to really take their time to get a sense of what they truly want and need. It is important to self-reflect on all levels! Know what kind of lab they want to join. Have an idea of what kind of mentorship works best for you, the environment that works best for you (a small/big lab and personalities), what tools you want to learn and/or perfect, and what your overall goals are. Also, do your research! Look at the track record of the lab and talk to current and past members. A lot of times, graduate students get excited at being wanted, and that excitement can easily impair their train of thought, so take your time! Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask questions! Nothing is ever easy but know you can SLAY whatever you put your mind to! Lastly, be fearless! Like Judi Holland says, “Make Fear Your Homeboy”.
Accomplishments you have received: NIH postdoctoral training fellowship, NIH Loan Repayment award for clinical research, Burroughs Wellcome Postdoctoral Enrichment Program.