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Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Student Profile: Kiara Vega Bellido

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Kiara Vega Bellido
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Mentor: Daoyun Ji, Ph.D.
Undergraduate major: Biology
Undergraduate school: University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez
Research Interests: Cognition, Neuroplasticity, Systems Neuroscience, Artificial Intelligence

Why did you choose Baylor College of Medicine?

First and foremost, the Neuroscience research is outstanding. The faculty and students were so bright and welcoming, and I felt a sense of a diverse community unique to the school. I was also struck by the feeling that I would be well taken care of while facing the struggles of mental illness and the many challenges of grad school, which really influenced my decision that this was the right place for me.

What is your research interest?

Currently, my main research interest is focused on my thesis project which studies the plasticity underlying Contextual Fear Memory in the Schaffer collateral synapse. Basically, our experiment is designed to probe the changes in synaptic strength of CA3-CA1 synapses (i.e. Schaffer collaterals) that occur during CFM acquisition and Slow-Wave-Sleep-mediated consolidation. This is done through tetrode recordings in freely moving mice so we can observe the behavior at the same time as we record from CA1 place cells while concurrently stimulating the Schaffer collaterals. Please feel free to ask me all you want about it: vegabell@bcm.edu

Why did you choose your mentor?

He's a brilliant scientist with a honed critical eye for experimental design and data analysis. I wanted to learn how to think about experiments the way he does. Moreover, he is an understanding and easy-going mentor with a "you get out as much as you put in" kind of mentoring style, which very much suits me.

What aspects of training have been most influential in preparing for your intended career?

Having to design my project and structure my efforts and time effectively in order to stay on track despite the inevitable myriad pitfalls and setbacks. Also, networking with other people within and without my field.

Did Baylor’s location in the Texas Medical Center enhance your experience?

Yes! It has definitely helped me network.

What are your career plans?

I am currently very interested in Science Policy, but plan B would be to become a translational clinical researcher while studying to get a counseling license and afterwards work as a mental health professional.

What do you enjoy about living in Houston?

It's diverse, friendly (for the most part), and I actually like the weather (being from Puerto Rico and all).

What advice do you have for prospective students?

You should begin to try to accept that your graduate experience is going to be unique to you and your circumstances, those within your control (i.e. which lab you choose) and those without (i.e. sudden illness). But persevere. And be compassionate with yourself. Always keep trying. You are worth it and so is the effort.