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Jennifer Walcott

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ION Success Story


Kayla Evans, a 2014 Institute On Neuroscience (ION) Summer Research Program participant, was recently accepted to Harvard University, offered a full-scholarship to Duke University, and received the very rare “likely” early acceptance letters from Yale University and the Columbia SEAS Egleston Scholars Program. Though the Douglas County High School senior is not yet sure where she wants to attend college, she says that she is “definitely planning to study neuroscience and continue research in college”. While science and service are her passions, Kayla says that her foundation comes from her commitment to her faith. At her church, she is an active member of her youth group, a praise dancer, and also uses her technology skills to design and record weekly church announcement videos. Kayla is the oldest daughter of Ulysses and Veronica Evans of Douglasville, GA, and sister of Alyssa, Jessica, and Marcus Evans.


In addition to being an academically strong student (she was recently named a National Achievement Finalist), Kayla has dedicated a lot of time to her research and participation in science competitions. The summer before her junior year, Kayla participated in the Vivien Thomas Summer Research Program at Morehouse School of Medicine and was named the Georgia BioGENEius Challenge Winner, going on to represent the state at the International BioGENEius Challenge in San Diego, CA. This year, Kayla has qualified to compete at the 2015 Georgia Science and Engineering Fair with her research project she began over the summer at ION, titled “Constitutively Active HSF1 May Mediate Neuroprotection in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis”. She worked on her project in Dr. Nicholas Boulis’ laboratory at Emory University School of Medicine, under the mentorship of Dr. Anthony Donsante.


Kayla recently gave a Talk at TEDxYouth@TheBeltline 2015, where she discussed her “thirst” for science, and aggravation with the lack of effective treatments for many neurological diseases. She shared her idea for people to harness the power of their passions and aggravations, giving the advice to “quench your ‘thirst’ for change, using what makes you ‘salty,’” she has certainly done so in her school and community. At Douglas County High School, she is president of the Student Government Association, co-founder and president of a peer-mentoring program called “M.E.R.G.E.”, vice-president of Science National Honor Society, and a Varsity Track and Field athlete. Kayla volunteers at the Red Cross and other local nonprofit organizations as a member of AmeriCorps. Kayla plans to pursue a career in neuroscience and hopes to make a positive impact in the advancement of effective treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.


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