Cool Girls with Tag: neuroscience

Dr. Karen Wilcox

Name: Dr. Karen Wilcox
Hometown: New Milford, NJ
Occupation: Department Chair at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Utah, Principle Investigator of the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program

Dr. Karen Wilcox is a professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Utah, and the director of an anticonvulsant drug development program. When she’s not combing over new data with her students and postdoctoral trainees in the lab, she’s going to meetings, and trying to answer the copious emails she receives. This brainiac neuroscientist always knew that she had wanted to be involved in science, so that sort of a schedule is a dream come true.

“When I was a small girl, I wanted to be an archeologist. And then an influential high school science teacher got me interested in marine biology. Finally, a mentor I met in college taught me about neuroscience, and I knew I had found my calling. So as far back as I can remember, I have always had a sense that I wanted to be a scientist,” she explains.

After years honing her skills and becoming an esteemed researcher, she and her husband moved to Utah to follow a great career opportunity for him.

“It was a bit unclear whether I would find an academic position here,” she recalls. “I was lucky, but had to start in what is known as a research track assistant professor position, which meant that I was not in a more secure tenure line. Eventually I was able to be switched to the tenure line and that has helped with my career tremendously.”

Now she works to hire new faculty members for her department, and makes sure those eligible candidates ensure its long-term success. Beyond the scope of academia alone, she is the Principle Investigator for the contract site of the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program.

This is your brain on massive magnification.

“Just about all anti seizure drugs have been through our program,” Dr. Wilcox says, “so we are very proud of the fact that many of the medicines that are now available to patients with epilepsy have been through our program. When we test them for activity in our experiments, we are blinded to them so we can perform the experiments in an unbiased way. So I do not know which potential medicines we are currently working on!”

Fortunately, this contract for the program is NIH funded and has been at her university for over 40 years, though garnering funding for experiments is always a challenge. Nonetheless, Dr. Wilcox hopes that her experiments will continue to help those who suffer from epilepsy and that someday she and her team will either discover a cure or a way to prevent epilepsy in those patients at risk for developing it following a brain injury.

Dr. Wilcox in the WildernessBeyond the lab, Dr. Wilcox explores the beautiful foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, soaking up the replenishing energy of nature with her husband and their newly adopted terrier, Milo. She also binge watches British detective shows, reads historical fiction novels, and gets her passport stamped as often as possible. “I love to travel to other countries, which my job lets me do!” she says.

For her tireless work researching, and running a department whose experiments and steadfastness help countless people suffering from epilepsy, and for enriching the lives and minds of her students and co-faculty, we think Dr. Karen Wilcox is a Cool Girl!

You can connect with Dr. Wilcox on twitter at @kswilcox
Or see more specifics on her lab and work on her faculty page on the University of Utah.

Danielle Stolzenberg

Name: Danielle Stolzenberg, PhD
Age: 28
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Occupation: Postdoctoral Fellow

Having a Ph.D. isn’t enough to secure a job these days, especially if you’re a scientist. That’s why Danielle Stolzenberg is dedicating nearly four years of her life to an academic residency known as a postdoctoral position. Danielle studies the neurobiology of maternal behavior, which is a fancy way of saying that she tries to figure out how and why mothers respond to their infants’ stimuli. Last year she graduated with a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience from Boston College, but it’s not as if this Cool Girl was a scientist from birth.

Growing up in Pembroke Pines, Florida, Danielle wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up, but she knew she hated the science fair and lima beans. “I wasn’t particularly good at science, and I definitely wasn’t a fan of it,” she says. This is a huge difference from the girl who, during the first week of her “Physiological Psychology” class in college, went to the registrar and changed her major and degree from a BA to a BS in order to pursue a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience. “Physiological Psychology was rumored to be the most difficult of all the psychology classes, and even though I had never been a straight A student up till that point, from the day I stepped foot in that class everything changed. I got it on a level that seemed to make everything else make sense,” she remembers. She was hooked. As Danielle puts it, “Neuroscience was like the “gateway drug” for me.”

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