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Hi everyone! My name is Abby Palacios, and I am a senior from Little Ferry, New Jersey. I am currently pursuing a B.S. in neuroscience with a minor in medical anthropology. I transferred into UNC from Penn State University after my sophomore year, where I studied microbiology. My career aspirations consist of attending medical school to become a physician, with a special interest in working in maternal-fetal medicine. Outside of being a Gil intern, I devote much of my time to running a student organization on campus called Saving Mothers at UNC Chapel Hill, which aims to prevent maternal mortality on a local and global scale.


Prior to coming to UNC, I spent the first two years of my undergraduate career at Penn State engaging in microbiology research at the Miyashiro Lab through the NASA PA Space Grant Consortium Research Internship Program. At the Miyashiro Lab, I conducted my own research project that investigated changes in bacterial physiology throughout stages of host-microbe symbiosis establishment between Vibrio fischeri and Euprymna scolopes. My journey in microbiology research continued throughout my first semester at UNC at the Cotter Lab, which operates within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the UNC School of Medicine. Through this lab, I had the opportunity to assist in research projects that aimed to investigate bacterial physiology in upper respiratory infections.


Although I enjoyed building upon a foundation in microbiology research, my interest in neuroscience had grown as I continued to learn more about the field through my classes. I wanted to seek opportunities to engage in a new side of research that would not only complement my academic curriculum but also allow me to explore my curiosities about the function and development of the human nervous system. Fortunately, the Gil internship has given me the opportunity to do so!


Through the Gil internship, I am currently a student research assistant at UNC Mother Infant Research Studies at the Department of Psychiatry within the UNC School of Medicine, and am working under the mentorship of Pam Beiler, MSW/LCSW, who is the research coordinator of the team. This lab has a long-term interest in studying the effects of prenatal substance abuse exposure on baby brain development. This semester, I am gaining experience in methods for conducting psychophysiological research with mothers and infants through assisting in infant MRI scans and preparing infants for biological sample collections. I will also be assisting in administering Bayley development scales during mother-infant study visits. Furthermore, I will have the opportunity to enhance my understanding of the biology of postpartum depression and its effects on the mother and infant relationship by evaluating attachment styles.


The Gil internship has provided such a unique opportunity to combine my interests in neuropsychological research and mother-infant health. I am extremely grateful for my experience thus far! I have especially appreciated the fortifying support and encouragement from our Gil internship managers and fellow interns in my cohort. I look forward to continuing my journey and carrying these new skill sets and experiences into my future career!

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