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Our Executive Team

A team of scientists with a passion for scientific outreach

 
 
 
 
 

Abigail Ballard

Student Coordinator

Biochemistry

As a researcher…
I study platelets which are a component of blood that prevent bleeding. We aim to understand how platelet activation is regulated to better inform patient care.

I appreciate science because…
I most enjoy the excitement of learning new things every day.

My favorite dessert is…
Chocolate chip cookies

My favorite hobby is…
I enjoy running and crocheting.

Rafia Virk

Volunteer Coordinator

Nutritional Biochemistry and Immunology

As a researcher…
I research on how omega-3 polyunsaturated derived metabolites help with the resolution of lung inflammation in mouse models of acute-lung injury.

I appreciate science because…
My favorite part about science is when I get to share and collaborate my research with other scientists.

My favorite dessert is…
ice cream!

My favorite hobby is…
Playing table tennis!

Reagan Bullins

Social Media & Website Coordinator

Neuroscience

As a researcher…
I focus on understanding how the brain produces skilled movement behaviors. Skilled behaviors (such as playing a musical instrument or performing a tennis serve) are learned over time and require the activity of specific brain regions and groups of cells. In my research, I look at how varying groups of cells contribute to different aspects of movement behaviors.

I appreciate science because…
I am constantly learning and adjusting my perspective. I enjoy the creative process of adapting my ideas to incorporate new knowledge & coming up with ways to probe them.

My favorite dessert is…
Chocolate ice cream with Reese’s

My favorite hobby is…
Rock climbing & finding new coffee shops!

Katherine Degner

Administrative Coordinator

Neuroscience

As a researcher…
I research how variations in the non-coding genome (which is 98% of your genome!) contribute to risk for psychiatric disorders, especially substance use disorders. My main goal is help identify people at risk for psychiatric disorders based on their genomic profile.

I appreciate science because…
I really enjoy the collaborative nature of science, especially at UNC. People study really specific topics, so we all have to work together to figure out the big picture.

My favorite dessert is…
My mom’s cream cheese pound cake

My favorite hobby is…
I generally like to workout but my favorite is to take long walks outside during the spring season

Erin McNell

Volunteer Coordinator

Toxicology and Environmental Medicine

As a researcher…
My research focuses on exposure to phthalates, synthetic chemicals found in many daily-use products. I am interested in how phthalate exposures during pregnancy influence the development of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia and preterm birth.

I appreciate science because…
The opportunity to collaborate with other scientists and community members to make an impact that goes beyond my field of study.

My favorite dessert is…
Peanut Butter Pie

My favorite hobby is…
Taking my dog Gemma to the dog park!

Emily Kounlavong

Social Media & Website Coordinator

Cancer biology and epigenetics

As a researcher…
I’m interesting in understanding how cancers are encoded to grow and how they grow with the hopes attacking them at those points. I’m also studying how people’s unique genetic markers make them more susceptible to certain treatments over others for a more personalized approach to medicine.

I appreciate science because…
I love that science can be as interdisciplinary as you want it to be!

My favorite dessert is…
doughnuts

My favorite hobby is…
baking

Gracie Clark

Student Coordinator

Biochemistry and Pathology

As a researcher…
My lab studies fibrinogen – fibrinogen is a protein that circulates in your bloodstream, and can be converted to fibrin, which then polymerizes into a “mesh” that helps your blood form a clot. My work in the lab focuses on the roles of fibrinogen during a bacterial infection – sometimes the fibrinogen helps the host, and sometimes it helps the bacteria. We want to better understand the interactions between the bacteria and the host fibrinogen, so that eventually we can create better treatment options for these types of infections!

I appreciate science because…

I love that I get to learn cool new things all the time, and that there’s always something new and interesting happening in lab – and I love getting to take a closer look at how the world works!

My favorite dessert is…
Carrot cake!

My favorite hobby is…
Gardening and spending time outside!