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Young neuroscientist selected as IF/THEN Ambassador by AAAS

Lataisia C. Jones, Ph.D., a Children's National postdoctoral fellow, will serve as STEM role model

WASHINGTON – Lataisia C. Jones, Ph.D., at Children’s National Hospital, was selected on Sept. 9, 2019 to serve as an IF/THEN Ambassador by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society, to inspire the next generation of women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Jones, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab run by Masaaki Torii, Ph.D., in the Center for Neuroscience Research, will serve as a role model for budding scientists, connecting with middle school students in person, virtually and via network television shows. In October, she will meet in person with the 124 other ambassadors in Dallas to exchange insights and receive training in communication and storytelling techniques to take their advocacy to the next level.

“I am thrilled about this opportunity for Lataisia. She’s passionate about pursuing rigorous neuroscience that has the potential to improve children’s lives and carves out time to share her enthusiasm about research with young people near and far. She will be an amazing STEM role model,” says Vittorio Gallo, Ph.D., Chief Research Officer at Children’s National.

“I love, love, love kids,” Jones says. “When I realized my passion for research, the question I asked myself is how can I still impact kids but through research and science.”

Just a few years ago, Jones had no idea she would pursue a career in research herself. In middle school and high school, she thought she would follow the footsteps of her athletic family, perhaps becoming a professional volleyball, basketball or field hockey player. She ran into difficulties in science because she talked too much in class. Her mom interceded, pulling her daughter off the basketball team until she raised her grades in science.

Never one to shrink at a challenge, Jones became an Honor Roll student. Then, she set her sights on being the first in her family to bring home a college degree. She applied for and received 15 scholarships, which helped her enroll in Virginia State University. Thanks to a research opportunity at William & Mary, she explored laboratory work and found her true love was research.

Jones’ current research work uses experimental models to better understand brain abnormalities associated with autism spectrum disorder.

“Science takes time, doing all of the necessary procedures and experiments to understand something,” she says. “Every week, you get satisfaction from knowing you’re inching closer. Knowing if you manipulate this DNA or look at this region of the brain, it could show you something no one else has ever seen.”

Jones was selected as an IF/THEN Ambassador due to her STEM-related contributions thus far, demonstrated experience in communicating with the public about STEM and her personal commitment to inspiring middle school girls to pursue their own STEM dreams.

While earning three degrees, she had personal encounters with just a handful of people of color within STEM fields, including advisers. She has made it her personal mission to serve as a role model, helping to fill that void by telling young people: “If you see anything within STEM that interests you, go for it. When you hit your first curve or first road block within science or STEM, do not give up. When you feel like you want to give up, remember why you are there. Revitalize your motivation by going a little further and, in the end, do not give up.”

It’s the same sage advice she received from her mom not too many years ago.

Financial support for research described in this post was provided by Lydia Hill Philanthropies.

Media contact: Diedtra Henderson | 443-610-9826 | 202-476-4500

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