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School of Medicine discoveries

August 2017 Archives

14
2017

Real Beauty, Real Science

Gretchen Neigh, Ph.D., associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology, is the face of science.

Gretchen Neigh, Ph.D.

Anatomy and neurobiology’s Gretchen Neigh, Ph.D., was recently featured on Dove soap’s “Real Beauty” campaign, pointing out that beauty is using one’s strengths to improve the world.

At least one of them. You might have seen her on Dove soap’s “Real Beauty” campaign. Neigh recently responded to an online survey, suggesting they feature a woman in science because beauty is using one’s strengths to improve the world.

To her surprise, Dove asked her to share that message herself.

Neigh, who’s been at VCU’s School of Medicine about 18 months, aims to increase the visibility of women in science – and inspire the next generation to see it as a viable career path.

“When I was growing up [in rural Pennsylvania], the only scientist I had any idea existed was Mr. Wizard on Nickelodeon,” she says. She studied biology as an undergraduate, intending to go to veterinary school. But she began to doubt that career choice, and talked to her professors about other possibilities. “I knew some did research, but I didn’t really know what that entailed. My professors suggested I do some small research investigations.”

That led to an independent field study, camping out on the side of a hill in all weather to watch the behavior of a herd of llamas. “After that, I decided against field research,” she says. But research itself was a fit, and she ended up in an internship at Ohio State University. “The first time I saw a real, functional NIH-funded lab, I loved it and knew that was what I wanted to do.”

In her psychoneuroendocrinology and psychoneuroimmunology lab at VCU, she is studying the effects of stress on the body, and the biological changes that result in mental health challenges such as depression. She also sees the lab as a chance to mentor aspiring scientists and welcomes undergraduates onto her team.

“The steps following undergrad are highly competitive and sometimes difficult to navigate,” she says. “I want to help students figure out what they want, what they need to get to that goal, and encourage them along their chosen path.”

Neigh’s participation in Dove’s Real Beauty campaign was born of that spirit. As social media editor of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology’s journal, she admits that she spends more time on Twitter than the average scientist might. “I’m always looking for ways to make it more publicly known that there’s a broad range of scientists.”

So when she noticed Dove’s call for participants in the Real Beauty promotion and wrote in, she was ready to recommend some peers. But Dove ended up asking her to be a face of the campaign.

Her quote:
“Real Beauty is using what makes you special to make the world more beautiful. I use my scientific abilities to study the brain with the goal of improving mental health.”

“People come in all shapes and sizes and areas of interest, and you can be more than one thing – scientists are more than just scientists,” she says. The multifaceted diversity in backgrounds, experiences and interests that the university offers were why she chose to come to VCU.

“VCU offers amazing programs to increase diversity in science. To have so many programs in one place is quite impressive and a tremendous opportunity to advance science.”

By Lisa Crutchfield

07
2017

The Class of 2021 is amazing

Class of 2021's Bob Jones at the base camp of Mt. Everest

The Class of 2021’s Bob Jones hiked to the base camp of Mt. Everest. Scroll below for more pictures from the incoming class.

They’ve traveled to all 7 continents and can talk to people once they get there. They speak French, Chinese Mandarin, Haitian Creole, Korean and Guarani – that’s an indigenous language spoken in South America. Watch out for the one who can recite all eight Harry Potter movies verbatim – that’s probably in English.

Of course we like a good medical background, so you’ll find an EMT, an EKG specialist and an emergency department scribe. A cancer researcher investigated a drug that’s now in Phase I clinical trials. One got medical exposure shadowing a Shaman in the Amazon Rainforest and another got a different kind of exposure. She spent her birthday last year hospitalized in Thailand after catching a mosquito-borne virus.

There’s the student who enjoys donating blood. Which is a good thing because her classmates include a phlebotomist and a Red Cross blood drive coordinator.

One student is the newest in four generations of doctors. Another is the first person in his family to graduate from college.

They love sports – and they’re good at it. We’ve got a college quarterback and a short stop who was drafted by the Major Leagues. Plus the college football fanatic who can name mascots to all 128 FBS schools. They compete in field hockey and golf, tennis and badminton — make friends with the student who knows how to string tennis rackets.

There’s the one who biked across the country from Baltimore to San Francisco, and the other who learned how to ride five months ago.

Mountain climbers have hiked Table Mountain and to the base camp of Mt. Everest. Another summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. We’ve had marathoners in Chicago and Boston, a triathlete and even an Ironman. Along with a brown belt in Judo and a second degree black belt in karate.

A licensed open-water diver recently came back from the Great Barrier Reef, a certified deep sea scuba diver can hold his breath for 3 minutes, and we’ve got an an oyster gardener.

They’ve worked as a personal trainer, a nutrition counselor and a cab driver from Boston. One tutored refugees in ESL and another launched a nonprofit that helps the homeless. An Air Force engineer has launched, landed and disposed of satellites, a magician has performed for pediatric patients at hospitals in the U.S. and the U.K., and an actress made it out on stage four times a week for two months during her senior year of college – she had to, she was playing Cosette in Les Mis.

There’s a volunteer dog rescuer and a knitter who’s won two ribbons at the Virginia State Fair. A beer brewer and a barista. And the food blogger behind AMPMBM – it will help you stay regular.

We’ve got adrenaline junkies who like to skydive and keep bees in their backyard. Another taught fourth grade math and science. And then there’s the one who spent some time this summer chasing a moose. Yes, a moose.

Click the images below for expanded views.

Story by Erin Lucero