Student Spotlight January 2019

    Courtney T. Shepard




    Courtney T. Shepard completed her undergraduate degree at University of Colorado-Boulder with a Bachelors of Science in Integrative Physiology and a concentration in Neuroscience. Courtney joined the University of Louisville in fall of 2014, beginner as a Master’s student in Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology. She later reapplied as a PhD student in spring of 2015, and was the first PhD student accepted into the Interdisciplinary Program in Translational Neuroscience. Courtney now works for the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC) with Dr. Scott Whittemore and Dr. David Magnuson at UofL’s health sciences campus as she completes her dissertation.

    "Courtney is the ultimate multi-tasker. She teaches gross anatomy, performs cutting-edge neuroscience research and manages to keep two very different mentors happy. She is also an outstanding mentor to other graduate and undergraduate students."

    -Dr. David Magnuson, Professor of Neurological Surgery




    1. What brought you to the University of Louisville?

    I interviewed at several other universities, but Louisville immediately felt like home. I have always been passionate about anatomy, especially neuroanatomy (anatomy of the brain and spinal cord) and was initially planning on attending medical school. I was drawn to University of Louisville’s Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology (ASNB) department. After having incredibly positive experiences with the faculty in the ASNB department and in my lab, I decided that a career in academia better matched my ambitions.

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

    I study specific populations of neurons in the spinal cord and how they affect the inability to walk after spinal cord injury. Many forms of neurotrauma, such as traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury, occur every day and are life-changing for patients. I chose to study this area of research because I wanted to learn techniques that would help in my future career and to help those affected by spinal cord injury. I also loved the collaborative and supportive environment at KSCIRC. Additionally, I’m extensively involved in the Medical Gross Anatomy and Medical Neuroscience courses for first year medical students. I hope to pursue teaching and educational research at the medical school level after I complete my PhD.

    4. What made you go into this field of study?

    In high school, my anatomy teacher had a passion for anatomy and neuroscience that completely spilled over to me. Just think about it... the brain and spinal cord control everything we do, say, think, feel. Isn’t that so cool?!

    5. Awards and Publications:

    2017-2018       University of Louisville School of Dentistry Graduate Teaching Assistant Fellowship Award

    2017                Excellence in Neuroscience Research Graduate Student Award – 1stplace

                            Neuroscience Day, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY

    2016                Excellence in Neuroscience Research Graduate Student Award – 1stplace

                            Neuroscience Day, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY

    2012-2014       Dean’s List (3.6 GPA or higher)

                            University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO

    6. How do you think this advanced degree will change your role in society?

    Getting a PhD has given me an appreciation of those that dedicate their lives to performing research as well as those who benefit from that research. Much of what researchers do is thankless but essential for advancements in health. 

    7. Long term goals/ aspirations:

    I want to develop curriculum at the medical school level that improves the communication and the translation of research between medical doctors and basic scientists, specifically in regards to neuroscience

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

    Managing responsibilities and time management are essential to being successful in graduate school and I feel they are major challenges to grad students transitioning from undergrad. I’ve dealt with this by making sure to maintain a balanced work/home life. This means pushing myself when I need to and allowing myself to take breaks when they are necessary.  Being surrounded by supportive family, friends, and mentors has also been a huge help in facing the challenges of grad school!

    1. Have you ever participated in a PLAN workshop or Academy offered by the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies? If so, how has it helped you in your graduate student journey?
    I participated in the GTA Academy in the Fall of 2017. I found it incredibly valuable! On the medical campus, we often are not exposed to different perspectives on teaching and the ideologies behind them. I was able to take many of the techniques I learned during the academy and employ them into my everyday TA work.
    1. Family life:

    I live with my husband, Ryan, and our 3 fur babies: Chester, Peanut, and Sam. My parents also live in Louisville. They’re the best support system I could ask for and are what keep me going each day!

    Fun Facts
    A talent you have always wanted: Realistically, to be a super stellar athlete. Non-realistically, to breath underwater. Or maybe fly. Or both.
    Favorite book: All the Harry Potters (6 is the best though)
    Favorite quote: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t want to work hard” - John Wooden
    Role Model: I have many!  My parents, my husband, my aunt Terry, Dr. Brueckner-Collins (ASNB), Dr. Herring (ASNB), my PIs... all have taught me such valuable life lessons that continue to make me a better professional and better person!
    Favorite Vacation Destination: Kauai, Hawaii
    If you weren’t in graduate school, what would you be doing now? Scuba diving with sea turtles!