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Lillian R

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at Harvard University


Cellular neuroscience, molecular biology, enteric nervous system, gut-brain axis, Autism Spectrum Disorder


I am a first-year graduate student in the Program in Neuroscience at Harvard. I am interested in the enteric nervous system, which is part of the autonomic nervous system that houses over 100 million neurons in the gastrointestinal tract. Studying the ENS is important, as its dysfunction not only leads to gastrointestinal disorders, but can also be linked to neurological disorders. This makes sense considering the ENS and CNS share some neuron types, almost all neurotransmitters and similar anatomical and mechanistic properties. Furthermore, there is an emerging field studying the impact of microbiota on gut function, since dysregulation of the gut microbiome has been implicated in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. When I’m not in lab, I can usually be found crocheting, binge-watching TV, or camping.

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.

Intro to Scientific Reading

My biggest challenge when starting my career in research was learning how to read scientific literature. A possible project could be dissecting a scientific paper of your choice and translating the experiments and results into words your peers can understand. This translation can be in any form of your choosing (i.e., in writing, in a video, in a presentation, etc.). We can start by reading reviews from your area of interest which will give you the background needed to understand the paper you will choose. From the reviews, you will decide what was most interesting that you’d like to know more about, which will lead to primary literature that you will translate. Through reading current literature, you will also learn about modern experimental techniques used in neuroscience.

Teaching experience

I worked as a mentor for first-year, first-generation college students at UC San Diego. I helped them transition from high school to college by helping connect students with resources, develop crucial time management skills, and set and complete specific academic or personal goals.


Work experience

Harvard University (2020 - Current)
Graduate Student
University of California San Diego (2016 - 2020)
Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) Scholar
Harvard Medical School (2019 - 2019)
Summer Honors Undergraduate Research Program (SHURP)


University of California San Diego (UCSD)
BS Bachelor of Science
Neuroscience and Physiology
Harvard University
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate

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