First-Gen Spotlight: Eden Maness

Eden Maness (she/her/hers) is a 4th year PhD student at William & Mary whose research interests are centered on many areas including the psychopharmacology of mental illness, behavior analysis, the neural circuitry involved in consciousness and cognition, the lateral hypothalamus and its implication in psychiatric conditions, drugs of abuse, and evolutionary psychology. Her current research endeavors to identify novel brain targets to better treat the attentional impairments in schizophrenia using novel pharmacotherapeutics. If you would like to connect with Eden, follow her on Twitter @emaness_!

  1. Where do you call home? Williamsburg, Virginia
  2. What is a quote that you live by? What other people think of me is none of my business.
  3. What do you see yourself doing in the future? Neuroscience professor in charge of my own research lab, advising graduate and undergraduate students alike! I am especially interested in mentoring women and minorities in STEM and encouraging them throughout their academic journeys.
  4. If you could switch fields/careers, what field/career would you want to work in/have?*  Biological anthropologist. Human evolution is so interesting to me – I almost went to grad school for anthropology!
  5. What frustrates you the most about academia? The cut-throat competitiveness, lack of diversity, and the pressure to prioritize productivity over self-care.
  6. What are three things you can’t live without?* Tomatoes, Spotify, and coffee naps (where you chug a cup of coffee and immediately nap after – you wake up super energized and ready to go!)
  7. What message do you hope your research conveys to the public? Despite the fact that we can’t physically see mental illnesses, they are very real and more common than we think. Even though schizophrenia is arguably one of the most devastating and complex brain diseases, and even though many scientists view it as a “bleak” journey to make in regards to discovering new drug therapies, it is a worthwhile endeavor if it means that the lives of those afflicted can significantly improve. Even one researcher can make a tremendous discovery that completely changes the way we view and treat schizophrenia.
  8. Who do you do this for? My parents – despite both dropping out of high school, they were immensely supportive of my academic journey. Despite not knowing what I’m doing 95 percent of the time, they have always been there for me throughout the whole process. I am also doing this for people who struggle with mental illnesses and feel unheard. Pouring my efforts and energy into better understanding the brain-drug-behavior interactions in a variety of psychiatric conditions has given me a level of sympathy, and even empathy, that is so badly needed in society. And I’m delighted to provide this insight if I can.
  9. What is your proudest moment (so far)?* I was awarded the Graduate Studies Advisory Board award for Excellence in Scholarship in the Natural and Computational Sciences at my university in April of 2020. This was a very proud moment for me, and I was interviewed for an article published by my school. Shortly after the article was published, I received an email from a faculty member wherein she explained that her brother had schizophrenia and that anyone who takes the time to research this wildly complicated disorder is a hero. When I tell you I cried for hours… it completely validated my research and made me feel like I was doing something valuable and worthwhile. Sometimes when I’m feeling discouraged, I think about this email and it reinvigorates me.
  10. What is one piece of advice you would give to other first-gen students? Don’t be afraid to reach out to faculty, mentors, and peers if you need help! I am a prideful person and would desperately try to navigate the complicated journey of grad school completely on my own. At times, I really had no idea what I was doing – I wasn’t even close to anyone that had gotten their PhD when I first started. There are certain insights I simply did not have because no one in my immediate family went to graduate school, so oftentimes I felt alone and confused. It took me years to gain the courage to ask for assistance, but once I did, I felt that I had a network of people who knew my situation and had my best interests at heart, and things became much easier for me – and even when things get tough, I know who I can count on to have my back. Asking for help is humbling, but I promise it is worthwhile.

*borrowed from the 46 Questions blog!

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