Kelsey Paulhus

Biology student wins a fellowship award from the American Epilepsy Society

SMU biology student Kelsey Paulhus has received a predoctoral fellowship award from the American Epilepsy Society (AES) to support her research and professional development activities.

These one-year predoctoral fellowships provide $30,000 in funding to predoctoral students that are participating in epilepsy-related research under the guidance of a mentor who has expertise in the epilepsy field. Epilepsy is the fourth most common chronic neurological disease in the United States affecting up to one in 26 people during their lifetime.

Kelsey Paulhus

Paulhus is a Ph.D. student in the laboratory of Dr. Edward Glasscock, who is an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at SMU.

She was one of only six predoctoral awardees chosen by AES to receive this prestigious and highly competitive fellowship for 2022. Paulhus was selected for her innovative research proposal to study the contribution of cortico-limbic brain regions to cardiorespiratory dysfunction and Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) risk.

As part of her proposed research, Paulhus plans to measure the coordinated activity of the brain, heart, and lungs in specially engineered genetic mouse models of epilepsy to investigate how particular seizure-generating brain regions can also initiate cardiac and breathing problems when a seizure occurs. The findings of her research have important implications for identifying the brain circuits underlying SUDEP, as well as for elucidating the cardiorespiratory pathophysiology associated with heightened risk of seizure-related death.

Why did you choose to attend SMU as an undergraduate and what did you foresee yourself doing after graduation when you were admitted?

I chose SMU for my graduate program because I was looking for a smaller interconnected department that is well respected. I also had pre-selected several labs that were doing interesting science that I thought I could be happy and productive in. I knew when I started here, I would be finding a postdoctoral position after graduation, and from there I plan on finding a job in academia where I can teach and run my own neuroscience-based research lab at a respectable university.

What has inspired you to pursue a profession in the sciences?

I've always known that I wanted to work in biological research. I think the majority of students who start going down the biology degree path have aspirations to go to med school and be a doctor, but I only ever wanted to work in research. In research, I enjoy all of the interesting hands-on techniques I have had the opportunity to learn, and how I have the freedom to apply a variety of the techniques I know to answer important scientific questions. I have also been incredibly fortunate to have had so many mentors along the way who share the same enthusiasm for science, which I find really inspiring. At the end of the day, I am most inspired by the idea that my research contributes to a greater body of knowledge that could be used to help people, specifically for people with epilepsy.

What is most interesting about epilepsy to you?

When you think about epilepsy, I imagine the first thing that comes to mind is a disorder of the brain right? What is so interesting to me is that epilepsy can have an impact on the whole body so understanding this common neurological disorder is a much greater task than you might think.