Yislain Villalona always wanted to be a doctor until she became curious about the brain and mental disorders. Now the Hispanic premed major (with a focus on cellular molecular genetics and minors in neuroscience and chemistry) is pursuing a career in neuroscience—and hopefully public health.
“I like the idea of the brain being anatomically the same but everyone having different personalities and different issues,” she says. “And I love finding an answer to a question and getting another question.”
Yislain became involved in undergraduate research after meeting Dr. Christine Curran, an assistant professor of biology at NKU. She started studying taurine, a main ingredient in energy drinks, to determine its effect on adolescent brain development.
The research led her to the Society of Toxicology (SOT), where she was the first—and only—undergraduate student to win the SOT Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award, which provides funding for students to enhance their professional career development.
“It was an incredible honor and opportunity,” she says. “I applied for the award in hopes of attending my first national scientific conference. It ended up being a double bonus.”