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Kaeli Welsh, originally from Minneapolis, is a second-year doctoral student in pharmacology. She received her bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry with honors from St. Olaf College before joining the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program (BBSP) at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is a recipient of the 2020-2021 National Institutes of Health-funded T32 Pharmacological Sciences Training Grant.

Kaeli Welsh

What made you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?

I applied for graduate school unsure of what field I wanted to join. I was drawn to the diverse research possibilities provided by the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program, where I could freely explore different fields. I was immediately interested in joining the pharmacology department. UNC Pharmacology has an excellent research reputation and focuses on developing students as researchers and science communicators. The department has a strong sense of community and listens closely to the needs of its graduate students.

Tell us about your research.

My thesis work will focus on two massive, essential protein complexes that stall cell division until chromosomes are properly aligned, ensuring the correct number of chromosomes are present in each daughter cell. Disruptions in this system can cause grave genomic defects and have been implicated in a variety of cancers. My research will describe the dynamics, kinetics, and disassembly mechanisms of these complexes on a time-resolved, single-molecule level.

What does it mean to be a first-generation graduate student in your family?

My family is always so excited and proud when I give them updates. They usually have a lot of questions about how graduate school works (rotations, qualifying exams, lab life, etc.) and always check-in to make sure I’m balancing everything okay. My younger sister is now a first-year undergraduate student, and I’m happy to be a part of her support system and pass down my college wisdom to her!

What are you hoping to accomplish with your Carolina degree?

Currently, I’m weighing the pros and cons of three different career options: academia, industry, and science policy. I’m hoping to develop a definitive career goal this year, but I’m enjoying learning more about each option through the UNC Science Policy Advocacy Group (SPAG) and my lab’s industry collaborations.

Describe Carolina Grad Student F1RSTS in five words.

Community and support; de-mystifying academia.

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