Kristin Sellers joined our curriculum this fall. She has already proven to be an outstanding student in the lab, as well as a big help with PMRD and an avid runner. Whether it be academically or athletically, Kristin is always going for the gold! Read below to find out more!
NBIO: What does your current research focus on?
KS: My first research focus is on characterizing the mechanisms and functions of physiological cortical oscillations in an animal model. In order to understand the function and interaction of oscillations in different cortical states, I study animals during resting state, with visual stimulation, while anesthetized, and during behavioral tasks. Many neuropsychiatric disorders are characterized by changes in the frequency structure of their on-going brain activity; by understanding the role of specific oscillations, we can more effectively target abnormal network activity. This informs my second research focus, which is developing non-pharmaceutical, network-level clinical interventions to help treat neuropsychiatric disorders through the application of non-invasive electrical current.
NBIO: What kind of hours does your research require? Can you explain a typical day in the lab?
KS: I typically work 55-60 hours a week. My schedule is blocked into periods of in-vivo experiments, human transcranial current stimulation/EEG experiments, and data analysis and writing. For in-vivo experiments I perform craniotomies and implant recording chambers in our animal model, and conduct extracellular electrophysiology during short awake recordings and multi-day anesthetized preparations. In humans, I measure neural activity with EEG while administering slow and fast current stimulation. Subsequently, I use custom-written Matlab code to determine the frequency composition and signal properties of our neural recordings.
NBIO: What are your plans following your time spent at UNC?
KS: Following graduate school, I’d planning to transition into industry to work on clinical trials. I anticipate putting my knowledge of designing and implementing well controlled and careful studies to use in testing the safety and efficacy of new pharmaceutics and treatments. I hope to help bridge the gap between bench scientists and care providers.
NBIO: During your time at UNC, what is the most interesting event/activity your research/field of study has allowed you to be a part of?
KS: I was thrilled to spearhead a pilot study of non-invasive transcranial current stimulation. Transcranial current stimulation has the potential to be an enormous therapeutic asset for a range of neurological and psychiatric disorders. Conducting a research study alongside clinicians in the hospital reminded me daily that our work can have direct translational applications.
NBIO: What is the best piece of advice you would give a student entering your field of study?
KS: Do not settle. Find research that sparks your intellectual curiosity. Find a lab that will be supportive and push you to ask the right questions, do the hard experiments, and understand your results. You’re going to be putting enormous effort into your work – so find an area that you care about.
NBIO: We’ve heard that you play a part in Pierre Morell Research Day. Can you tell us more about that?
KS: I am currently on the PMRD Committee and the Student Seminar Committee. My job with each is to provide students in the Neurobiology Curriculum with the opportunity to invite distinguished researchers of their choosing to UNC for Pierre Morell Research Day and seminars throughout the year. Allowing students to take ownership in these events will hopefully increase excitement for their science and help integrate a broad discipline.
NBIO: When you’re not in the lab/doing research, what types of activities do you enjoy doing? (other hobbies)
KS: Much of my non-lab time is spent training and racing for the Fleet Feet Elite Running Team. I specialize in the half-marathon, but also compete in the USATF-NC long distance racing series. My training group (UNC med student and masters graduate) is great about meeting at all times of the day to accommodate lab!