Member Stories

Kayla Takes Over The Blog

A little over two years ago I had just officially switched my major to Psychology with the intent of my future career looking at inter and intra-relationships with patients (specifically children with cancer) and how this effected individuals outcomes (i.e. did some get better because he/she had a higher quantity or quality of relationship(s)? or perhaps the opposite with terminal outcomes). Not knowing very much since this was my first semester I sought advice from heads of the department which informed me to get into research ASAP! It was through my search that I happened to find Dr. Kohman’s Psychoneuroimmunology Lab. At the time I had very little knowledge about the experiments she was conducting in her lab, with barely any classes to help me understand, and a drive to help children. Immediately I started bugging the crap out of this very nice, young professor who I had never had a class with until she gave me an interview (which I didn’t know was an interview).

She e-mailed me one day about “meeting up to talk” and innocent me had no idea that meant a formal interview. Even though I showed up in jeans, a sweatshirt, no make-up and a ponytail I somehow still managed to get the position. She later told me the reason she accepted me was because when she asked me the interview questions she could tell I was being 100% honest and up front with her. (For those of you looking to get into labs remember: You can be trained on skills in the lab but genuineness is something either instilled in you or not. Both future PI’s and Employers are looking for this)

I have been in Dr. Kohman’s lab two years to date and am currently conducting an Honor’s Thesis titled Social Housing and its effect on inflammation-induced anxiety in C57BL6/J mice. Now you may be wondering what mice have to do with my interest in children. My future goals for research include looking at children with cancer and how we can raise quality of life in their last few months. I personally believe anxiety to be a huge hurtle associated with illness that can hinder quality of life for these children (i.e. my honors thesis is assessing inflammation induced anxiety-like behavior ((making the mice’ bodies think they are sick and kicking on an immune response)) similar to that of what a child going through chemo might experience-anxiety from the cancer and chemo).

I want to stress how important this part is: GET INVOLVED IN RESEARCH. So many things within a lab can be transferrable to the next (i.e. animal to human). Two years ago I had no idea I would be conducting my own study with mice (I was still scared to touch them about two years ago). Being in this lab has allowed me to see how absolutely and 100% I am IN LOVE with research. However, it has also allowed me to figure out I am not in love with animal research, AND THAT IS OKAY. I have had many in-depth conversations with my PI over the last couple year’s regarding my interests and where my passion really lies. My heart is on fire for children with cancer and she is very aware of this. She does not take this personally because she wants me to succeed in what I want to do in life! Being open and honest with your PI is crucial because they are going to be one of your recommendations and need to know how to shape the recommendations around your strengths and the positions you are going for.

If anyone ever has any questions regarding getting into labs, research, Honor’s Thesis, life, etc. Please do not hesitate to contact me. I will be more than happy to answer anything for you.

-Kayla Barnes kbb3134@uncw.edu

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