Hey everyone! My name is Justin King and I’m a senior majoring in neuroscience with a minor in Spanish for the Health Professions. I’m from Cary, North Carolina and love to visit national parks and go rock climbing in my free time. When I arrived at UNC, I knew I wanted to study neuroscience. The major was officially introduced in Fall 2018 and I enrolled in it right away. As I began to spend more time in Davie Hall with classes and lab work, I remember seeing a flyer advertising the Gil Internship program. I thought to myself, this is exactly what I want to do. And here I am – a Gil Intern – my senior year! I’m thrilled to be a part of the program and it’s been a fantastic experience so far.
In terms of my research interests, I first started out volunteering in Dr. Todd Thiele’s behavioral neuroscience lab my freshman year. This lab specialized in studying alcohol addiction in mouse models and the brain circuitry that modulates both binge drinking and stress responses. This led to fascinating research that showed many of the same neurotransmitters that regulate anxiety, depression and stress are also activated during periods of binge drinking. Looking toward future research directions, I’m fascinated by concussion studies and particularly interested in studying human performance and neurological changes related to traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s). I also think it’d be fun to apply neuroscience research/methods to the professional field of leadership development and management consulting. A wide variety of interests for sure!
What got me so excited about the Gil Internship is that it bridges the gap between academia and industry. I saw it as the perfect opportunity to apply everything I’ve learned in my neuroscience classes and solve real-world problems. This semester I’m interning at Carolina Performance, a company that specializes in mental health treatment, specifically for addiction. Many providers have their practices at Carolina Performance, including Marilyn Shannon, a certified life coach who serves as my mentor in the program. Most of my work involves preparing for the 2nd annual People’s Opioid Summit, which will take place October 5-7th through a hybrid (in-person and virtual) format. The goal of the Summit is to bring together providers, educators, advocacy groups, and those battling addiction to discuss resources and treatment options in order to fight back against opioid addiction.
Day to day, I research non-profits that we are looking to partner with as well as search for sources of funds for the Summit in the form of foundation money or grants. We recently announced that we will be partnering with Recovery Communities of North Carolina, the largest non-profit organization in the state that works directly to support those struggling with mental health and addiction. In addition to this research, part of my role is to learn as much as I can about the opioid crisis and how it affects people themselves. It has been extremely powerful to read some of the personal stories of those both struggling with addiction and the people supporting these individuals. The work that we do at Carolina Performance has opened my eyes to the lack of resources available to support those struggling with mental illness and addiction, and the changes that need to occur in terms of local initiatives and statewide policy. There is still much work to be done in order to end the opioid epidemic, but the work of companies like Carolina Performance and Recovery Communities of North Carolina is empowering both individuals and communities to move toward that goal. It has been incredible to come alongside Carolina Performance and do this work, and I will forever be grateful to the Gil Internship Program for giving me the opportunity to do so. Go Heels!