Getting to know our NWIS Leadership: Mary Phillips

Get to know the scientists that keep MPFI’s NWiS organization up and running! In this four-part series we will be learning more about the team that makes our networking opportunities possible.

June 30, 2020

What is your background (e.g., education, hometown, etc.)?

I was born in Virginia, but moved to Georgia for Middle and High school. I went to college at University of Maryland, College Park where I majored in Biology. During my undergraduate years, I worked on crayfish defining neural circuits regulating risk-taking behavior. After graduation, I worked as a technician at Janelia Research Campus in northern Virginia. I stayed at Janelia for two years, optimizing semi-automated behavioral assays for drosophila. I then went to the University of Alabama at Birmingham and obtained my Ph.D. in Neurobiology in 2019. My doctoral thesis focused on defining a novel brain circuit regulating social memory, and its disorder in a mouse model of Rett syndrome, an autism-associated disorder.

What is your position and lab at MPFI and in NWiS?

I am a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Ryohei Yasuda. At NWiS, I am an events coordinator.

What is your project or work about?

My goal is to study neural circuits underlying social learning: how we learn to act appropriately in a variety of social settings. This is a complex behavioral process, and the circuits are intricate and interconnected. The tools available at the moment do not yet have the resolution possible to parse out unique roles of this interconnected circuit. My project is to build such a tool that will allow for better resolution of circuit manipulations.

Why did you want to participate in NWiS?

Women are sometimes subject to unique pressures in the workforce. This network exists to first provide a network for women to share experiences and strategies for navigating these pressures. Secondly, the group is an advocate for women at MPFI and works with management to create a workplace that is inviting for all.

Why did you decide to study neuroscience?

What is more fascinating than to investigate the inner workings of the mind?

What is the best advice you have heard and/or would pass on for women in science?

Do the work that truly captivates you. The rest will follow.

How do you manage your stress from work and/or maintain a work-life balance?

During grad school, I began building after stressful days and weeks at work. I would build headboards, tables, those sorts of things. I’ve continued this since moving to Florida, building things mostly for my new hobby farm where I keep all sorts of poultry and goats. Taking care of the farm gives me time each day where I can unwind and enjoy.