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Jill Barnes, Ph.D., 2014 Edward C. Kendall Award Recipient

‘Highly original’ Diligence and drive propel scientist to take risks and earn awards

As an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Jill Barnes, Ph.D. (ANES ’13), had to work harder to compete. “I’d gone to a small community high school with open teaching and few college prep courses,” she says. “At Michigan, incoming freshmen had semesters of college credit under their belts, and their families had spent a lot of time and effort on their education. I felt like I had to work harder than everyone else or produce off-the-wall ideas. Sometimes those ideas pan out. “I thrive when my curiosity can just run. I love to read about the latest research, generate questions, narrow down what will be useful and productive, and search for the answers. Having to really apply myself to compete gave me a certain drive.”

‘A shining star’

Diligence and drive have paid off. Dr. Barnes has racked up awards for academic achievement, accomplishments and professional involvement. Recently, she received the 2014 Edward C. Kendall Mayo Clinic Alumni Association Award for Meritorious Research. Her mentor at the University of Texas at Austin, Hirofumi Tanaka, Ph.D., director, Cardiovascular Aging Research Laboratory, describes her as the most driven student he has supervised. “’Aggressive’ is a very important trait in the increasingly competitive area of academic research,” he says. “Jill will be a shining star in the field of cardiovascular and exercise physiology in the future.” Dr. Barnes has received an independent NIH K99/R00 award, has authored 29 original publications in peer-reviewed journals, received an individual NIH NRSA (F32) from the National Institute of Aging, was instrumental in obtaining a pilot feasibility grant from the Mayo Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, and is collaborating with other principal investigators on a newly funded NIH P50 Specialized Center for Research to study sex-specific differences in cognitive decline. She developed a novel and independent research program exploring the interactions of aging, sex differences and cerebral blood flow regulation in humans.

‘A taste for risk-taking’

“Jill’s ideas about aging, cognition and blood flow are highly original,” says Michael Joyner, M.D. (ANES ’92), a consultant in the Department of Anesthesiology and the Frank R. and Shari Caywood Professor of Anesthesiology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. “Rather than plug into a successful ongoing area of investigation in the lab, Jill struck out on her own. She has a taste for intellectual and professional risk-taking and the skills to obtain the input and resources needed to pursue her vision.” Dr. Barnes says she was surprised at the collaborative possibilities at Mayo Clinic. “I thought that as a fellow I wouldn’t have a lot of opportunities,” she says. “I was able to do things I never imagined ¾ working across departments, writing editorials and review articles, partaking in large collaborative studies with industry and other funding. The intellectual capital on this campus is impressive. It’s a very collaborative research community.”

A move to a state away

Dr. Barnes’ intellectual capital will soon grace the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. In January, she will begin her tenure-track faculty appointment in the Department of Kinesiology. “My experience at Mayo was great, and I’d love to have spent my career in Rochester. But there’s more opportunity for a career path as a scientist at Wisconsin,” she says. “Even though I’m a state away, I hope to continue to collaborate with Mayo Clinic at least until studies I’m involved with are complete, including Dr. Virginia Miller’s SCOR [Specialized Centers of Research] grant on sex differences. “Being on a college campus presents other facets of diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s that I hadn’t previously considered, such as the sociological aspects of the health and wellness of caretakers. I look forward to new collaborations and exploration.”

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