Naomi Charalambakis, a graduate student in the School of Medicine Department of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology, knows exactly what she wants to do after graduation – use her science background to promote policies and “be that voice from the science community.”
Charalambakis is a student in the lab of William Guido, PhD, and is conducting research into the anatomical and functional development of the neurons responsible for refining and controlling visual information delivered to the brain’s visual cortex. Her lab studies the basic science behind how the visual system works.
Additionally, Charalambakis is director and co-founder of the Science and Policy Outreach Group (SPOG), a student organization that works to inform students, faculty and the community about the importance of research and to advocate for research funding.
“We are here to just be a resource for students and faculty and post-docs and even the community to just understand why science is important and why medical research is necessary,” she said. “More than that, we want to be able to encourage the younger generation to pursue the STEM fields.”
Charalambakis has organized several events focused on advocacy for research funding, including a forum that featured a presentation by Congressman John Yarmuth on the HSC campus in 2016 to discuss the federal budget process and the role of scientists in securing funding for research.
She served as a Science Policy & Advocacy Ambassador on behalf of the Society for Neuroscience, and was a Science Policy Intern for Research!America, spending 3 months in Washington, D.C. interacting with members of Congress on issues related to federally-funded research. In addition, she regularly communicates with Senator Mitch McConnell, serving as a liaison between policymakers and the research community.
More of her story is below.