|After the Dissertation
Taking Research to the Next Level
Before she graduated from UTSA’s neurobiology Ph.D. program in December 2005,
Julissa Villarreal set a program record by authoring three research papers while enrolled.
Explaining what drew her to UTSA from Columbia University, where she earned her undergraduate degree, she says, “The program was new and growing, and with a newer program, you have newer facilities. I really liked that it was in Texas, and I especially liked
the fact that they had minority faculty.”
Since earning her doctorate, Villarreal has gone on to become a postdoctoral fellow
at the National Institutes on Aging (NIA) in Baltimore; she also conducts research at
Howard University in Washington, D.C. She recently wrote a successful National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant proposal that will be funded until 2008—an achievement she’s proud of because only about 19 percent of NIH grant proposals receive funding.
Villarreal is continuing her preclinical study of the effects of normal aging on
learning and memory. She first became interested in this area when working with Edwin
Barea-Rodriguez, associate professor of biology and assistant department chair at UTSA.
Working in the NIA’s experimental gerontology lab, she studies different compounds that
can delay age-related deficits, including deficits in motor skills.
The postdoctoral fellowship is a transition period between school and career,
she says. “The best part [about this time] is being able to focus on your research.
You can get publications out and acquire more skills in a setting that’s different from
graduate school. And the resources available through NIA are great.”
In the future, Villarreal would like to run a behavioral core facility, assessing the
behavior of various rodent models.
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