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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

One Trainee’s Story

Watch on YouTube.


>> FRANCES JOHNSON: It had never occurred to me to do a Ph.D. and it was something I never thought of. I didn't know anyone who had done a science Ph.D. An advisor recommended going over to Yale and just seeing what people were doing. So I sent some emails and I actually got some answers. And when I was volunteering there, another scientist in that department suggested that I needed funding and that I should look at NIH. It turned out that NIH, and the National Institute of Mental Health in particular, will offer a grant to a research scientist who already has a grant with them to support someone who is learning science, who is from an underrepresented group. And so we applied for this grant for me to work fulltime on a project with this PI, Dr. Arie Kaffman in the department of psychiatry at Yale Medical school. And we got this grant which was amazing. And this was a really big opportunity. So I spent two years full time working in this basic research lab on a problem that is relevant to mental health, vulnerability to mental illness in an animal model. I learned a bunch of things and there was just a lot to learn in that environment like that. That experience made me a good candidate for graduate programs like Ph.D. programs in neuroscience. And I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience, with a particular interest in developmental mechanisms and increased vulnerability to mental illness. So I applied. I got to visit three different universities. I was chosen by the University of Pittsburgh. So I'm going to be attending the University of Pittsburgh in the fall. And in the meantime, I also found out that National Institue of Health and National Institue of Mental Health offer summer programs for people like myself. So I applied to what's called the G-SOAR program, G-S-O-A-R. It's to give an extra boost, I would say, for people who are interested in going into science at the graduate level. And I'm here for the summer in that program. I'm working in a lab at NIMH that's made of functional neural circuits. Dr. Soohyun Lee's lab. It's a great environment to meet other people who are doing interesting things, and learn about all kinds of interesting work. I feel very lucky. And in a real way, it starts with a first support from the National Institute of Mental Health.

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