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Student Spotlight May 2011

Jill Ward"Jill is a promising young investigator with a passion for research and learning. She is a recent recipient of a highly competitive National Institutes of Health pre-doctoral fellowship. Jill's strong work ethic and high level of motivation is inspiring to all around her."
Dr. Charles Hubscher, Department Anatomical Sciences & Neurobiology




Jill Ward graduated from Auburn University in 2007 with a bachelor’s in Animal Science, summa cum laude. She had her heart set on attending Auburn’s veterinary school and was honored to receive early admission. However, along the path of admission seeking, she became involved in a research laboratory at the vet school. After two years of lab work, she turned down vet school and starting looking for a graduate program to achieve a Ph.D. She earned her M.S. in Anatomical Science & Neurobiology from the University of Louisville in 2010 under the mentorship of Dr. Charles Hubscher and is now working towards a doctorate.


Specific areas of research (how you chose this research, why it interested you):

I began looking for graduate programs with the help of my Auburn lab mentor, Dr. James Sartin. Within the University of Louisville, I was drawn to the neurobiology program. This lure was caused by a fascination with how the nervous system works and through a personal experience with a family member who lives with spinal cord injury (SCI). That is how I started working with Dr. Hubscher and the members of the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center. I want to improve the quality of life for people living with SCI. Our lab focuses on discovering mechanisms for relieving/preventing pain and improving bladder/bowel/sexual dysfunction. These areas are crucial to improving the quality of life for individuals with SCI.

What do you feel is the greatest challenge that graduate students face and how have you dealt with this challenge?

The hardest part is coming up with a project of your own. As a student with naïve eyes, it’s hard to look at an area of research and see what work needs to be completed or started. It seems as if everything you think of has been done already. But you have to start somewhere (which is usually helping another lab member with their project), to figure out where to go. Journal clubs and seminars are also very important and eventually you’ll start to recognize themes and get an idea of where your area of research is heading.

Awards, honors, publications:

I was awarded with the Integrated Programs in Biomedical Sciences Fellowship at the University of Louisville for 2007-2009. I also placed 3rd at Research Louisville in the Doctoral Basic Science Graduate division in 2009. My publications include the following research paper: Elsasser TH, Caperna TJ, Ward PJ, Sartin JL, Steele BP, Li C, Kahl S. 2007. Modeling growth factor activity during proinflammatory stress: methodological considerations in assessing cytokine modulation of IGF binding proteins released by cultured bovine kidney epithelial cells. Domestic Animal Endocrinology Nov;33(4):390-9. My abstracts include: Ward PJ and Sartin JL. 2005. Cloning of Antioxidant Genes and Exploring Their Possible Role in Estrogen/Progesterone Protection in Disease Models. Auburn University Cellular and Molecular Biology, Auburn, Alabama; Ward PJ, Smith RR, Harkema SJ, Hubscher CH. 2009. Locomotor training improves urodynamic function in spinally contused rats. Society for Neuroscience, Chicago, IL; and Ward PJ and Hubscher CH. 2010.Expressed urine volumes during the acute phase following spinal cord injury predicts chronic functional outcome. Society for Neuroscience, San Diego, CA.

Family life:

I married as a twenty year old sophomore in college to Chris (Auburn Alum ‘03; Southern Seminary Alum ‘10). We have now been married six years and are blessed with a son, Grant (8 months old), who fills our life with so much love. Most of our family lives in a rural town in Alabama. There are some things we miss about the slower lifestyle of the small-town south, but we have grown to enjoy Louisville.

Fun Facts

A talent you have always wanted: I want to sing like the 90’s Mariah Carey.
Favorite book: Riders of the Purple Sage, 1912 Zane Grey (I’m a sucker for a good western).
Favorite quote: “Major on the major’s and minor on the minor’s”, Pastor Steve Scoggins, First Baptist Church of Opelika, AL.
If you weren’t in graduate school, what would you be doing now? Living at the beach as a female body builder with a killer physique, but a mommy to half a dozen kids sounds good, too.

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