Dr. Julie Brefczynski-Lewis is an Assistant Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology in the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute at West Virginia University in Morgantown. She has studied higher order brain functions such as attention, emotions, social interactions, and meditation.
The scientific method is rooted in objectivity and has relied on government and public confidence that scientists are well trained and dedicated to accurate results. I think the big question of 2017 will be how science will adapt to a changing cultural landscape in terms of public attitudes, funding, global participation, and more.
In my field of neuroscience, we are a little lucky that many lawmakers making political and funding decisions have direct experiences with neurological and mental health needs of loved ones. In terms of disruptive technology, I predict virtual reality will have a major influence on how science is performed and communicated. In my research, for example, we are adapting novel PET (positron emission tomography) brain imager technology so that it is wearable and allows imaging of someone moving and responding in a virtual environment, such as an addict in a cue-laden setting. Other laboratories are using VR to explore the shapes and functions of neurons and molecules, and it’s likely to become a haven for social interactions such that exciting new studies on human behavior will emerge.
One example of a Mountaineer “going first” is Dr. Julie Brefczynski-Lewis. As a college student, Brefczynski-Lewis wondered about thoughts and memories and how those all rolled around in a three-pound organ known as the brain.
David Siderovski, Ph.D., E.J. Van Liere Professor and Chair of the WVU Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, is now directing the School of Medicine’s M.D./Ph.D. Scholars Program. Prior to joining WVU in 2012, Dr. Siderovski was the co-director of University of North Carolina’s M.D./Ph.D. Program for six years.
While at Chapel Hill, Siderovski personally trained three M.D./Ph.D. scholars within the research lab, with a combined output of nearly 50 papers on the structure and function of G-protein regulators. Siderovski also served for two years on the NIH Biomedical Research and Training panel, which reviews all U.S. Medical Scientist Training Programs funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
During this transition of leadership, the School of Medicine will suspend the recruitment of new students into the M.D./Ph.D. Scholars Program for the 2015 entry year in order to focus on a full review of program operations and career trajectories of its current scholars. In the 2016 entry year, first-year WVU medical students will have the opportunity to apply for lateral entry into the M.D./Ph.D. Scholars program; successful lateral entrants will be provided all benefits they would otherwise have received via the regular admission process.