Meet Julie and Natalie

Julie Vincent

Julie Vincent

  • Hometown: Augusta, Georgia
  • Area of Research: Protein aggregation in neurodegenerative diseases
  • Why is your research important? Neurodegenerative diseases are becoming more and more common due to the aging population.  Unfortunately, these disease etiologies are not well understood and do not have any significant treatments nor any known cures.  My research is important because I aim to discover methods and mechanisms that can contribute to not only understanding these diseases, but to potential treatment methods and mechanisms!
  • Why did you choose your degree program? The Neuroscience department as a whole presented all of their areas of expertise in ways where students can grasp how the projects can translate from bench to bedside.  Coming from a background initially interested in medicine, this was extremely important to me to be able to quickly understand how the science being practiced in a lab will contribute to modern medicine. 
  • What is the greatest lesson have learned from your mentor? Every experience in the lab is a learning experience that can be highly informative regardless of the outcome.
  • What have you found most enjoyable about your program and research at AU? The faculty and student interactions are all so enjoyable.  We are able to be comfortable and confident in a professional setting while still being able to make mistakes, ask questions, have fun, learn, and grow as scientists. 
  • Please share words of advice for someone considering this program at AU? It is great to come in with goals and expectations for yourself, but don’t be afraid to let those things change!
  • What have been some of your most rewarding moments while in your program? Immediately being able to share research ideas with my lab!
  • What are your career goals? Both short term and long term goals are the same in the end – to continue contributing to research with high impact. 
  • What courses in your program curriculum stand out as most helpful for your specific career goals? The core curriculum for the Biomedical Sciences program has been extremely beneficial going into the lab. Techniques are taught in tandem with their “when, why, and how” from a cell biology standpoint. 
  • What AU resources have been most helpful? The accessibility to the Graduate School (TGS) staff has been the most helpful to me during the start of my PhD! TGS welcomes new students and helps them acclimate through orientations. The office also offers policies guidance and administrative support on exams, dissertation preparation, and hosts many professional development workshops.
  • What is your Favorite AU memory? White Coat Ceremony by far has been one of the most memorable moments during my AU PhD career! Also, the fact that I have made some of my best friends through this program constantly adds to some of my best memories!
  • What do you do for fun (hobbies etc)?  When I am not in the lab, I enjoy being outside along the river with family, friends, and my dog!

Natalie Mseis-Jackson

Natalie Mseis-Jackson

  • Hometown: Jerusalem, Palestine
  • Area of Research: Neuronal Reprogramming in Spinal Cord Injury.
  • Why is your research important? Neuronal reprogramming is a cutting-edge technology that facilitates potential treatment for patients with spinal cord injuries and neurodegenerative diseases.
  • How does this program impact your career goal?  Pursuing a Ph.D. in Neuroscience is going to allow me to achieve my career goal of becoming a research scientist in an academic institution.
  • What have you found most beneficial about your program and research at AU? 

    In the Biomedical Science Ph.D. program, we are taught by world-leader researchers and provided with phenomenal resources and the latest, high-end facilities/cores.

  • What words of advice do you have for someone considering this program at AU? If there is something I’ve learned throughout my academic journey is that nothing is impossible. During this journey you will face obstacles, however, giving up is not an option. No matter how hard it gets and no matter what people around you say, you can and will achieve whatever you put your mind to. Just remember to remove the word impossible from your dictionary, keep working hard and I have no doubts that you will prosper.
  • What have been some of your most rewarding moments while in your program? Passing my qualification exams. Qualification exams are the most difficult tests we take in grad school.  They are required for all Ph.D. students to continue in the program, and they are important because it tests our ability to incorporate and bring to bear the knowledge and skills we gained during our first two years in graduate school.
  • What are your career goals? Currently, my short-term goal is to publish a paper by the summer of 2023. The paper will be about reprogramming diversified neuronal subtypes in the spinal cord injury model. I would also like to receive an F31 grant which is an individual predoctoral fellows award that supports Ph.D. candidates. The F31 is a NIH grant for Individual Fellowships for PhD Students that can support up to five years of their predoctoral research training. My long-term goal is to become a research scientist at an academic institution.
  • What courses in your program curriculum stand out as most helpful for your specific career goals? My neuroscience classes. In these classes, we get to learn about several neurological disorders, like spinal cord injury and Alzheimer's disease, from experts in the field. For instance, Dr. Danielle Mor's research revolves around Parkinson's disease; thus she will be the one who introduces the topic and tells us where the field is currently at.  Same as for when we learn about Spinal cord injury, we are taught by Dr. Hedong Li, whose research revolves around neuronal reprogramming in spinal cord injury.
  • What AU resources have been most helpful? At AU, all the professors have an open-door policy. This allows students to pop into the professor’s office and ask questions or get help at any time. This, thus, gives support to the students and encourages discussion and collaboration within different labs.
  • What is your Favorite AU memory? By Far, my favorite AU memory is the day I passed my oral qualification exam.  Knowing that my hard work paid off and didn’t go unnoticed makes me proud of all the effort and time I put into my studies.

  • What do you do for fun? Weightlifting, cycling, and hiking.

Former Student

Loudon Yang

"My mentor, Dr. Quanguang Zhang, has been an amazing mentor. He encourages me to work and think independently but also provides me with helpful guidance. Laboratory training in Dr. Zhang’s lab has helped me develop necessary research skills including the ability to design experiments, propose a research project, prepare and submit grants." 

Loudon Yang >>





Molly Braun

"My PI, Dr. Dhandapani, has been an amazing mentor. He allows me the independence to figure things out on my own but is also always available to brainstorm, give me input, and provide guidance. I am interested in pursuing a career in academic research so my mentor and I often discuss the processes involved in securing funding, preparing and submitting grants, and how to go about designing experiments and planning projects." 

Molly Braun >>