We Rep STEM aims to promote the work of inspiring people in the STEM community. Today, we’re featuring Kay Nisbett.

Read on to learn more about Kay and what her work entails, in her own words.

Hello! My name is Khalin Nisbett, but most people know me as Kay. I am a third-year doctoral student in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois, United States.

Broadly, I am interested in understanding the neural mechanisms underlying mental illnesses which include mood, anxiety, stress, and substance use disorders, and currently, I am on a quest to unravel the role of oxytocin in depression and anxiety.

Oxytocin is a neuromodulator endogenous to the central nervous system that can regulate emotions and mediate social interactions. Given that these two functions correlate highly with one another, understanding the mechanism of oxytocin in these contexts can enable us to answer questions surrounding why persons diagnosed with depression and anxiety are often socially withdrawn, and how social withdrawal can facilitate the onset, and progression of these disorders. As such, the goal of my doctoral research is to use previously established models of depression and anxiety to unravel how oxytocin can contribute to increased social interaction and the amelioration of symptoms in depression and anxiety.

Close to my heart is mental health awareness and encouraging people to look at the world from the perspective of others because I believe that this is where sympathy begins and how love flourishes!

Mental illness – 5 facts

1. One in 5 Americans experience a mental health issue annually, and one in 25 Americans are diagnosed with a mental illness such as major depressive disorder or schizoaffective disorder annually.

2. Mental illnesses may affect and be affected by the entire body; this includes your gut microbiota, your immune system, and your physical ability.

3. Mental illnesses are highly comorbid. For example, 65% of patients diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and 50% of persons diagnosed with a substance use disorder are also diagnosed with another mental illness.

4. 50% of all mental illnesses show early signs before a person turns 14 years old, and 75% of mental illnesses begin before a person turns 24.

5. Mental health issues can manifest as extreme mood swings, changes in eating and sleeping habits, excessive worrying or fear, problems concentrating, and social withdrawal.

Your mental and emotional wellbeing is just as important as your physical wellbeing! Seek therapy at the first sign of illness.

One love,

Kay (@kaynisbett)

Connect with Kay on Twitter, LinkedIn, or via the University of Illinois.

If you’d like to have your work featured on We Rep STEM, get in touch! We can be reached via email at werepstem@gmail.com.

Photos courtesy of Kay Nisbett.