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Merci B

- Research Program Mentor

PhD at University of Virginia, Charlottesville


Alzheimers, neuroscience, neurodegenerative disease, cell biology, axon initial segment, tau protein, human brain


Merci Best, PhD is passionate about studying tau-associated diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. Her PhD research studied a process that occurs about 10 to 20 years before an individual starts to show any symptoms of Alzheimer’s. With the new knowledge, Merci discovered in the lab, future research can leverage her findings to aid in the development of medicine that helps protect the brain cells from being damaged. In addition to Merci's passion for science, she is also excited about encouraging students to pursue science and related careers. She also is an avid dancer and has experience with liturgical, west African, hip-hop, and swing dance forms. Merci also loves the visual arts, specifically drawing and painting.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Exploring the Axon Initial Segment in Brain Disorders

Neurons are brain cells that have three main parts, the somatodendritic compartment, the axon initial segment, and the axon-axon terminal. The axon initial segment is instrumental for the neuronal function. However recent evidence suggests that the axon initial segment is disrupted in brain disorders like epilepsy, schizophrenia, bipolar, Autism spectrum disorders, multiple sclerosis, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Coding skills

Basic Coding (R and Python)

Languages I know

French, elementary proficiency and american sign language, full professional proficiency

Teaching experience

I have formally mentored 5 undergraduate students (4 as a graduate students and 1 during as an undergraduate student). I have informally mentored numerous graduate and undergraduate students. I have also taught science at the K-12 level.


Work experience

STEAMKITX: STEM and Arts Kits (2020 - Current)
Virginia Discovery Museum (2022 - 2022)
Denali Therapeutics (2019 - 2019)
Biotechnology Program Intern
Marine Biological Laboratory (2019 - 2019)
Summer Program in Neuroscience Excellence and Success


College of William & Mary
BS Bachelor of Science (2017)
University of Virginia, Charlottesville
BS Bachelor of Science (2019)
Biological and physical sciences
University of Virginia, Charlottesville
PhD Doctor of Philosophy

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