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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Student Q&A: Brittany Hopkins, Northwestern University Interdepartmental Neuroscience

Brittany Hopkins

Brittany Hopkins, a fourth-year student in the Northwestern University Interdepartmental Neuroscience (NUIN) program, studies in laboratory of Richard J. Miller, PhD, professor of Pharmacology

Where is your hometown?

I grew up in northwest suburbs of Chicago. While I was away at college, my family moved to Chicago. It’s great to have my family so close, they are a great support system and it means I don’t have travel far for the holidays, which is a bonus.

What are your research interests?

The brain has always fascinated me. My interest started in the science section of a local bookstore and eventually led to me studying neuroscience in college.My research in undergrad was focused on microglia, the immune cells of the brain, where we examined their non-immune roles in visual system plasticity. I have always found brain’s ability to change fascinating, and joining NUIN has exposed me to the many different facets of neuroscience research, which has led me to develop a deeper interest in neuropharmacology.

What exciting projects are you working on?

The Miller lab has always had an interest in a group of signaling molecules called chemokines. One of my projects focuses on a chemokine receptor that was discovered about 13 years ago but has remained understudied partially because the receptor functions atypically. It has been very exciting and rewarding to, not only learn more about the function of the receptor, but also show that it can’t be ignored because of its atypical signaling. I also do a lot of drug discovery work through a collaboration we have with the Center for Molecular Innovation and Drug Discoveryand Gary Schiltz, PhD, research professor of Pharmacology. It has been very gratifying to be a part of this academic drug discovery effort and examine the effects of novel compounds on different chemokine receptors.

What attracted you to the PhD program?

I was most impressed by the interdisciplinary nature of the NUIN program, and Feinberg in general, which I think is really an embodiment of how science is done today. NUIN has over 170 labs and I knew that I would find a lab that fit both my interests and my preferred mentorship style. I also knew that because NUIN spans both the Chicago and Evanston campuses, I would be exposed to an even broader spectrum of all the amazing research at Northwestern. Of course, having lived in the Chicago area all my life, I also knew how much the city had to offer!

What has been your best experience at Feinberg?

I have had so many amazing experiences, but one thing that I have really enjoyed is the ability to meet so many faculty that come to Northwestern to talk about their own research. These interactions with outside faculty always renew my enthusiasm for research. Talking with them about my own work also reminds me about how cutting edge our research is and how it contributes to the broader field.

How would you describe the faculty at Feinberg?

All of the faculty that I have interacted with have been so supportive and great mentors. It’s been such a privilege to be surrounded by people that are so passionate, knowledgeable and willing to help students.

What do you do in your free time?

Outside of lab I enjoy reading, particularly mysteries and non-fiction, cooking and snowboarding. I also love to take advantage trying new restaurants both here in Chicago and whenever I get a chance to travel.

What are your plans for after graduation?

I’m considering opportunities both in academia and in industry, but regardless I hope to continue studying the brain and pharmacology.

Connect with Brittany on LinkedIn.