Pheatured Scientist | 013

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Kellie Wilson is a PhD candidate working in Dr. Danny Winder's molecular physiology and biophysics lab at Vanderbilt University. Her research focuses on understanding the cause of stress-induced addiction in alcohol-use disorders by understanding how a novel population of cells regulates the brain's response to stress. With techniques such as optogenetics, electrophysiology, and fiber photometry she records the brain's activity and measures the anxiety level of mice after manipulating two critical proteins of the cells. The aim of Kellie's research is to interrupt the cycle of addiction by discovering a new target for treatment that could prevent stress-induced relapse. 

Kellie's fascination and interest with the brain came from her growing curiosity after reading the books about the brain in high school. Captivated by how there are so many questions we have not answered on how the mind works, she began her journey of discovery at Washington University at St. Louis, Missouri.  Through uSTAR, a research program for underrepresented minorities, she investigated how the specificity of synapses drives the way the brain processes pain. Kellie received her B.A. in physiology- neuroscience-psychology and was accepted into Vanderbilt's interdisciplinary graduate program get to continue her efforts in answering the mysteries of the brain. 

Once she earns her PhD, Kellie plans to become a professor at a research-focused university, as well as improve education in low-income minority communities through teaching and outreach. Until then, she mentors high school seniors on how to teach by helping them prepare a lesson plan where they will explain to middle schoolers on how the brain responds to and functions on drugs.

When she is not involved in research or leading outreach efforts with Vanderbilt's Center for Addiction Research, you will find her either dancing, reading, or practicing her gymnastics skills for fun.