Aseel Dib, a senior majoring in the Undergraduate Neuroscience Program, writes about her experiences in the program and at UAB.
I started at UAB as a Chemistry major knowing I wanted to pursue medicine but with absolutely no idea if I was compatible with my choice of major. My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when I was 13, so Neuroscience had already been a field I was personally interested in. After my freshman year, I studied abroad as a William Clinton scholar in Dubai. This was probably one of my favorite experiences since it allowed me to engage in taking courses with professors from all over the world and making new friends to expand in my diverse interactions and cultural acceptance. While abroad, I started contemplating whether or not Chemistry was my only passion.
Upon returning to UAB during the spring, my father’s disease became less of an enigma as his participation in a Parkinson’s research study at UAB inspired me to plunge into a research project to study the disorder on a molecular level. At this point, I knew I needed to supplement my knowledge in the nervous system in order to excel in my research and personal curiosity. After meeting with Dr. Kana my sophomore year, I was sold and knew I had to become a Neuroscience student. Who would’ve known that becoming a part of this program would open so many doors for me, starting as an amateur to now one of the ambassadors of the UNP, excelling in academics, research, and leadership.
Being co-mentored by Dr. David Standaert and Dr. Laura Volpicelli-Daley has allowed me to excel in research, which has been the most rewarding, mystery-filled experience I have yet to encounter. Initially, I assisted in studying the movement disorder dystonia to understand the underlying mechanism behind the hypercholinergic activity present in DYT1 KI mice by performing in vivo micro dialysis. I was able to submit a personal narrative about my work with Dystonia into the UAB Spring 2016 Inquiro journal. Currently, I am studying how to reduce tau as a therapeutic strategy in Parkinson's Disease Dementia.
Through both of these experiences, I have grown to understand the importance in contributing to research in order to successfully come up with treatments. Engaging in research also taught me patience when awaiting data, persistence when performing trial and error experiments, critical thinking when analyzing what steps to take next, and the importance of working with a team in order to maximize efficiency in experimentation. I look forward to presenting my data this Spring at the UAB expo and nationwide conferences, such as NCUR.
Not only has both UAB and the Neuroscience program allowed me to excel as a future scientist, I was encouraged to become a leader and engage in activities I was passionate about. On campus, I was member of the USGA during my freshman year, an executive director of administration in the University Programs Board, and an Undergraduate Neuroscience Program Ambassador. Off campus, I was also encouraged by mentors to step outside my comfort zone, and became a yoga instructor. One fact I strongly value is that as a career ambitious individual, I should not bind myself to one field. Meaning, not everything I do has to be science only. Rather, expand with multiple passions intertwining to one centered goal making myself content and securing my future goals.
One of my favorite experiences was attending the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference at UC Berkley last spring. I developed my own commitment to action, United4Humanity, to provide proper medical care to the refugee camps available in both Jordan and Lebanon. I actually am attending my first mission trip this spring along with many physicians to make my project become reality. I opted to focus on my refugee project during my gap year prior to applying and matriculating to medical school. After all, I know I want to be a physician who works with underserved areas, so having this experience under my belt will secure my connections to aiding this world.
If there is one thing I learned throughout my undergraduate experience at UAB, is to never settle for something less than you deserve and always work towards what YOU are passionate about. It is absolutely never too late to change paths and pursue a career and lifestyle that you love.