Dailey Nettles, a senior majoring in the Undergraduate Neuroscience Program, writes about her experiences in the program and at UAB.
I was the kid who got excited about science fair. Not only was this my chance to understand the world around me but I also got to create new ideas. I was always encouraged to ask how and why things happened. In high school I read article after article about MRI and behavioral analyses. My first research experience was at the Institute for Imaging and Analytical Technologies and the Center for Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University. Here I was able to learn about MR Spectroscopy and use those techniques to develop new protocols for detecting astrocytoma in canines. What I enjoyed most about this was seeing a change in behavior that was tied to physical brain abnormalities. As a junior, I knew I wanted to study neuroscience at UAB because of the opportunities I would have to research as an undergraduate.
Since 2013 I’ve had the privilege of working with Dr. Gwendalyn King and her fantastic team in the Neurobiology department. My project has been identifying some of the first neurogenic effects of Fibroblast Growth Factor 23 ever studied in the brain. Seeing the effects that gene expression can have on cell morphology and development has expanded my curiosity in this subfield. What began as an interest in MRI scans of astrocytoma developed into a fascination with the powers of IHC and imaging at the cellular level. I then realized that even if what I see is a small observation, I am the first one to ever see it, which has made me want to continue to research and discover.
Intellectually I’ve grown so much during my time here. I’ve overcome my fear of animal perfusions and thesis committees. One of the best lessons I’ve learned in lab is that 90 percent of what leads to success is persistence. While creativity, intelligence, and confidence are important, nothing can compensate for the willingness to come in every day and troubleshoot experiments. The other critical factor in conducting research is learning how to collaborate. Every scientific discovery is built on the work of others, so why not enjoy working with them?
Over the course of my undergraduate career I’ve also enjoyed being an active member of Alpha Xi Delta. Our chapter raises money and awareness for Autism Speaks which has given me the opportunity to interact with families affected by autism. I’ve also spent time volunteering with a homeless outreach through a local ministry. These experiences showed me the personal side to mental disorders and how neuroscience research affects the world.
My two proudest moments at UAB were accepting the inaugural Patsy W. Collat Endowed Scholarship in Neuroscience and when Dr. King received the Graduate Dean's Award for Excellence in Mentoring. Being a part of such an amazing lab team has shaped me into the scientist I am today. I plan to pursue a career in academic research and strive to be an outstanding mentor. I’ve received multiple offers for PhD programs in neuroscience and have chosen to accept an offer at my top choice.