Noele Certain, fifth-year doctoral candidate in the PhD program in Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology at Stony Brook University, received the NIH Blueprint Diversity Specialized Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Advancement in Neuroscience (D-SPAN) award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and AVC from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH D-SPAN Award will support up to six years of funding during two critical stages of his career, including the completion of his doctoral thesis and the transition to a research-intensive postdoctoral position. Overall, the award will help facilitate her long-term career goal of becoming an independent neuroscientist.
Certain received his Masters in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from Stony Brook University. The decision to pursue graduate studies was a very important next step in his career, as it allowed him to strengthen his passion for science and develop the necessary skills in science communication, research and leadership. Another critical milestone was Certain’s acceptance into the doctoral program in Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology. “I am so grateful for the incredible amount of support my program provides. My training in the Scholars in Biomedical Sciences program also provided me with a unique experience which supported my development as a scientist and broadened my experience in translational research. These opportunities have taught me to become very independent and take on new leadership and mentoring roles to support other graduate students, ”she said.
Certain acknowledges that it was not just his own accomplishments that won him this award. “Since my undergraduate years at St. Joseph’s College, I have continued to build a community of mentors and peers who have supported me every step of my career path. My success is also a reflection of my faculty mentorship and the overwhelming support of my colleagues, including my former counselors at St. Joseph’s College, Frank Antonawich and Moira Royston; my current advisor at Stony Brook University, Lonnie P. Wollmuth; my lab co-advisor, Helen Hsieh; my program director, Miguel Garcia-Diaz; and the current members of my thesis committee, Styliani-Anna E. Tsirka, Joshua Plotkin and Louis Manganas, to name a few. My progress as a student and being a recipient of this award demonstrates that it takes the investment of a village to cultivate an environment conducive to student success, especially for me as a multiracial woman of color. in science.
Certain became interested in pursuing neuroscience when she first met Professor Wollmuth, from Stony Brook’s Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, during a graduate class. “From that moment on, I became fascinated by the importance of these tiny proteins called AMPA receptors that orchestrate the process of learning and memory in the human brain. My current research efforts are focused on understanding the fundamentals of brain function and advancing our knowledge of neurotherapeutic targets, ”she said.
For his thesis work, Certain is studying the regulation of AMPA receptors and what is needed to support their function. “We can also use this information to understand the dysfunction of the AMPA receptor, which is implicated in many brain disorders, including epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease and drug addiction,” she explained. “My overall goal is to pursue a career as an independent neuroscientist and to provide access and inspiration to all students, especially underrepresented students who seek a path in science. “
Certain is involved in a number of organizations and programs including the National Science Foundation Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP), Graduate Women in Science and Engineering (GWISE), the Graduate Student Organization (GSO), the Center for Inclusive Education (CIE) and many local community outreach groups. She is also an Associate Fellow of the Society for Neuroscience Fellows Program and Dr. W. Burghardt Turner Thesis Fellow. Through these various opportunities, she provided peer support and community outreach.
Upon graduation, Certain will pursue a postdoctoral position in Neuroscience that will build on her undergraduate training, where she can develop new technical skills and gain more experience in mentoring and teaching to support her career in academia. “Ultimately, my goal as an early career scientist is to guide the next generation of scientists and improve the inclusiveness of STEM,” she said. “I have the privilege of occupying this position, and it is my responsibility to improve my community by making science accessible to everyone. “
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