Li, a third-year human biology major, is researching populations of neurons in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus in the brain, stimulating them and observing their pathways and functions in the mouse model, particularly in terms of pancreatic insulin secretions.
“This research has profound implications for the treatment of diabetes, and this methodology can be used to characterize countless regions of the brain to identify how they connect and what they do,” Li said. “I am also working on a part of brain called the post-inspiratory complex that plays a role in the breathing cycle and is hypothesized to contribute to sudden infant death syndrome.”
Li said while she appreciates the financial support the Goldwater Scholarship will provide her, more important is the access that it gives her to a network of scientists – plus the confidence to pursue her goals at the highest levels.
“I have done a lot throughout my time here at UVA, and I have found that research is my passion,” she said. “The Goldwater Scholarship is the most prestigious undergraduate scientific research scholarship, and I am honored that they have selected me as someone they see promise in and are willing to invest and support in a research career.”
An Echols Scholar, Li has also received the Randolph Preston Pillow Scholarship; the Helping Hand Scholarship, for outstanding service and high academic achievement; a Harrison Undergraduate Research Grant; a Double Hoo Research Grant; a College Council Minerva Grant to fund scholarly projects; an Ingrassia Family Research Grant for independent or faculty-directed research; and a Jefferson Public Citizen Award for research and service projects.
She is a researcher working in labs in the biology, biomedical engineering and neurological surgery departments. Also a Madison House volunteer, she is a founder and head program director of the Creative Learning After School and Summer Program; a program director with Madison House Medical Services; a member of the Madison House HELP Line Outreach Team; president of the AED Premedical Honor Society; a member of the Raven Society; student member of the Disability Advocacy and Action Committee; former vice president of College Council; and former vice chair of the Diversity Engagement Committee in Student Council. She is also a firefighter-EMT at the Seminole Trail Volunteer Fire Department and an intern with Code Ana, a program that prepares schools for medical emergencies.
Read the rest of this UVA Today article here