Contributions to STEMM
The passion this program ignited is evident today in Dr. Konopka’s groundbreaking neurological research, which examines the molecular pathways of the brain.
“I run a research lab that studies how the human brain evolved and how it becomes susceptible to cognitive diseases such as autism, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease. We focus on understanding the genes and molecules that are important in brain development and disease.”
As Principal Investigator of the Konopka lab, she leads research examining transcriptional networks, evolution of human cognition, and cognitive genomics. She also oversees her lab’s participation in the international Human Cell Atlas project, which aims to “map gene expression in every cell of the human body.”
Dr. Konopka is a scientist and educator at UT Southwestern. In her formative years, she recalls that “math was always my favorite subject. I took a career aptitude test during my freshman year, and my perfect-fit career indicated ‘engineer,’ so I decided to apply to engineering programs for college.” Specifically, her interest in STEMM was piqued in high school by a summer program in engineering research related to the space program. “This was my first experience in the lab, and I really enjoyed it,” she said.
The UT Southwestern Difference
Dr. Konopka’s favorite aspect of her position at UT Southwestern is “learning something new every day. Being constantly challenged to understand the mysteries of the brain is an extremely difficult and yet rewarding task!” She also touts the value of resilience to the next generation of researchers and physicians.
“Every day presents a new opportunity to take risks, and there are always barriers to overcome. I have learned to be resilient and stay focused on long-term goals.”
Next Generation of Women in STEMM
“Applying for as many opportunities to be involved in research as early as possible – whether that’s college, high school, or even earlier.”
She sees her participation in the Celebrating Breakthroughs Together project as a great honor, and believes that “it is very important to recognize the contributions of women in STEMM, because they are often too modest and tend to not self-advocate.”