Doctoral candidate Synphane Gibbs-Shelton and mentor, Ukpong Eyo, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience, are this year’s UVA recipients of the Gilliam Fellowship through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The goals of this prestigious fellowship are aimed to ensure that students from groups historically excluded from and underrepresented in science are prepared to assume leadership roles in science and science education, and to foster the development of a healthier, more inclusive academic scientific ecosystem by partnering with faculty and institutions committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in the sciences. Awardees are given opportunities to enhance their leadership, professional development skills and networking skills through annual training, conferences, workshops and discipline specific courses.
Synphane’s work, under the mentorship of Dr. Eyo, focuses on understanding the underlying mechanisms by which microglia contribute to seizures, with the ultimate goal of developing novel therapeutic strategies. Her findings highlight the importance of microglia in safeguarding the brain during seizures and promoting recovery; but they also raise important questions about how these cells provide a protective rather than detrimental effect. She is particularly excited for her future work involving live photon imaging and EEG measurements.
After completing her graduate studies, Synphane aims to become a STEM educator and leader in disadvantaged communities. Outside of academia, she is driven by a broader interest in science policy and biotech patent law. When asked about her passions, Synphane shared, “I aspire to leverage my scientific expertise to contribute to shaping evidence-based policies that promote innovation, improve public health, and foster collaboration between academia, industry, and government.”
Congratulations to Synphane and Dr. Eyo on receiving this prestigious award!
Article written by Kendall Bromley and Nicole Kirk.