Jillian Heisler: Neuroscience & The M.D./Ph.D. Program
When did you first become interested in science?
I was interested in science at a very young age and it was always my favorite subject in school. I really became interested in basic science research during my sophomore year in college when I joined my first lab group in the biomedical engineering department.
Why did you pick UT Health Science Center and the neuroscience program?
I matched to UTHSCSA for the dual degree M.D./Ph.D. program. Neuroscience was an easy choice because I was interested in neurology and neurologic diseases, so it was the best fit! Not to mention I was able to find faculty with similar research interests in the neuroscience program.
Tell me more about your career path.
I started the M.D./Ph.D. program in 2008 and graduated in May 2016 from medical school (I earned my Ph.D. in June of 2014!). I am pursuing
a clinical residency in neurology and will be finding out where I have matched later this month. I am hoping to go to a program that integrates a research component into their training so that I can keep my finger on the research pulse, so to speak. The programs I am interested in would allow me the opportunity to get the best clinical training while also pursuing my research interests with faculty interested in a variety of neurologic diseases.
Tell me about your current career, what do you do?
I am currently finishing my last few months as a medical student. I will be graduating in May and starting residency in neurology in
How did the education you get at UT Health Science Center prepare you?
Well, I’m still working on that education at the moment, but I do feel very well-equipped to handle both my clinical duties in the future and to pursue my research interests in the future.
The training I received in graduate school really molded the way I approach questions and I think that I will be prepared to formulate research questions based on my clinical experiences which is ultimately my goal in pursuing a dual M.D./Ph.D. degree. I was constantly
challenged to think on my own and come up with creative solutions and think analytically which I believe has prepared me for hopefully a successful career as a physician-scientist down the road.
What advice would you give to graduate students interested in following
My biggest advice would be to really find and follow your interest and passion. If you’re really interested in something, it won’t feel like work, cliche but true in my experience. And present your research any chance you get because communicating your science will be a huge part of your job and getting comfortable with public speaking can only help! Learning how to summarize the over-arching goal of your research in a few sentences will also come in handy.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I enjoy spending time with my husband and family and friends, outdoor activities like walking my dog, cooking (and eating!), going to movies, and traveling (although I don’t really get the opportunity much!).