Brittany Rice, a first year Integrated Biomedical Studies student, came to the University of Kentucky through the Kentucky Bridge to a Biomedical Doctorate for Appalachian Students program, which is a training grant awarded to UK and Eastern Kentucky University. “[The Bridge Program] provides Appalachian and underrepresented students the opportunity to become competitive applicants for admission into biomedical doctoral programs. Broadly speaking this program provides students with tuition supported master’s level educational experience, while simultaneously providing the necessary training to establish and/or hone research skills,” Rice explained. She recently completed her M.S. Biology at EKU, while also taking an IBS course and working with faculty at UK. This exposure to the university through the grant was what prompted her to apply for the IBS program.
Prior to arriving in Lexington, Rice graduated from Elizabeth City State University and participated in post-baccalaureate research at Virginia Tech. She said she was motivated to pursue science by a family connection. “Over the years [my mother’s] relentless struggle to make ends meet adversely affected her health. Seeking to improve the quality of life for my family and myself, I began to study life. As my studies deepened, I learned about health disparities and was instantly intrigued about the correlations between race, socioeconomic status, and disease. It wasn’t until college where my experiences conducting biomedical research affirmed my passion for improving the quality of life for others from similar backgrounds as myself by investigating health disparities at cellular and molecular levels,” she explained.
Rice had the opportunity to work in Dr. Kevin Pearson’s lab over the summer in advance of beginning her doctoral coursework. She said of her research, “This summer I have had the opportunity to investigate insulin signaling and adipogenesis in Caucasian and African-American neonates. Given my deep interest in health disparities my summer rotation in Dr. Kevin Pearson’s lab has been a perfect fit. […] Pearson’s lab believes that there may be differential expression in genes associated with obesity and diabetes among African-Americans and Caucasians, and that if these differences exist that they are innate and a result of fetal programming.”
At UK, Rice has been involved in the American Association of University Woman Kentucky Branch #IAmAWomanInSTEM initiative as a co-faciliatator. “I encouraged, retained, and perpetuated the participation of female students in STEM via solving community-identified problems associated with gender in STEM-related careers through assigning and guiding reflective coursework and community campaign geared group projects.”
When not in the lab, she can be found in the kitchen. “I thoroughly enjoy cooking, as it allows me to merge my interest in chemistry with food. While I am not a food connoisseur or chef, I do enjoy trying and serving new recipes weekly,” Rice said. She also gives back to her community by volunteering and participating in service projects.
After completing her doctorate, Rice envisions a future for herself in academia. “My career goal of becoming a professor is driven by my desire to encourage underrepresented students to pursue research careers in academia or industry.”