M.D.+Ph.D student to advocate on Capitol Hill as Society for Neuroscience Policy ambassador
Ambassadors are chosen because of their experience as leaders in their labs and for their dedication to advocate for the scientific community.
Katelyn Stebbins, a third-year M.D.+Ph.D. student who studies how the brain decodes visual signals, was accepted into the Early Career Policy Ambassadors Program for the Society for Neuroscience.
She was selected to visit lawmakers on Monday, March 6, to explain the importance of brain research during the Society’s annual Capitol Hill Day in Washington, D.C.
Stebbins, who conducts research at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, is one of only 10 members across the nation selected by the Society for Neuroscience.
“It's important to emphasize that research is the basis for all of medicine,” Stebbins said. “It helps us to understand the types of cells in the brain, how they connect to one another, and how that is implicated in different diseases, such as glaucoma. And that ultimately helps us find different cures and treatments to help for those diseases – it also helps us know more about who we are as humans and how we work.”
A student in the Translational Biology, Medicine and Health Graduate Program, carrying out her research at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Stebbins has committed to a 10-month effort to create an extensive network of neuroscience advocates. In addition to her neuroscience advocacy on Capitol Hill, she will engage in at least two more related activities at Virginia Tech.
“I’ve done similar programs - Virginia Tech emphasizes advocacy and makes sure that the students know about policy and how important it is,” Stebbins said. “This will be my first time approaching this activity with a research perspective.”
Stebbins works to further understand the development of visual systems in the laboratory of Michael Fox, a professor with the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and director of the School of Neuroscience of the College of Science.
“The Society for Neuroscience Capitol Hill program is an opportunity for trainees to interface with federal policymakers,” said Fox, the I.D. Wilson Chair in the College of Science. “By advocating for the scientific community, she is teaching people about the importance of neuroscience and science in general.”
In addition to Virginia Tech, Early Career Policy Ambassadors hail from the University of California-Los Angeles, Wayne State University School of Medicine, the University of West Virginia, University of Nevada-Reno, Columbia University, University of Florida, University of New Mexico, and George Mason University.
They were chosen because of their experience as leaders in their labs and for their dedication to advocate for the scientific community.
“It is educational and inspiring for lawmakers and staff to meet with the next generation of biomedical researchers, such as Katelyn,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and the vice president for health sciences and technology at Virginia Tech. “These interactions with students often set the stage for long-term relationships with the nation's political leadership that can be of great value for enhancing the bidirectional communication between the scientific community and citizens through their elected representatives.”