Tracey O. Hermanstyne, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist - Neuroscience
Washington University, School of Medicine
In short, what do you do?
As a neuroscientist, I study molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie the functioning of the brain’s clock which controls circadian rhythms in physiology and behavior. I utilized behavioral assays and molecular genetic strategies with electrophysiology, to continue to produce more insight in how the brain’s clock functions and identify novel targets for drug development.
What drew you to a career in science? Did any mentors or special programs help you along the way?
I have a love for learning. Science has always fascinated me and I nurtured that curiosity by joining math and science clubs. I also participated in research programs at local universities while in high school. I decided to pursue a career in science because it allows me to add to our understanding of how biological systems work. Creating knowledge and presenting innovative ideas is what excites me about being a scientist.
My first mentor is my mother. My mother has instilled in me that I possess the capability to be, and do, anything. Her enthusiasm and passion for learning was passed down to me; therefore, I give her credit for those seeds.
Do you have a specific professional research goal?
Overall, my professional goal is to obtain a faculty position at an academic institution and establish a multifaceted, multidisciplinary research program…thus allowing me to continue to study the mechanisms that underlie the electrical properties of neurons, in a network, and how they synchronize and coordinate specific behaviors.
What drives your dedication to teaching and empowering minority students and trainees?
In the field of basic science research, regardless of discipline, under-represented minorities make up less than 5% of employed scientists. By recognizing this issue, I, along with the Associate Dean of the College of Arts & Science, have the opportunity to teach a topics course designed to expose students of color to general biomedical research and we place these students in laboratories to gain hands-on experience in their field of choice. Along with the laboratory experience, a community of students and senior scientists of color has been established for networking and additional support. Thus far, more than 55% of the students enrolled have advanced through the educational process and pursued postgraduate degrees in STEM fields.
What do you enjoy in your free time?
Spending time with my mentee as well as the other young ladies of the Sophia Project, a mentoring organization in St. Louis, is one of my favorite pastimes. In addition to volunteering with the Sophia project, I am actively involved in community service projects with the Gamma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.