Brian Barnett

Position title: M.P.A/Ph.D. Candidate


Brian Barnett headshot

Hometown: Columbia, MD
Undergraduate Education: BS- Physiology & Neurobiology; University of Maryland, College Park May 2014

Professional/research interests:
I am interested in using neuroimaging methods to investigate alterations to white matter microstructure and markers of inflammation as endophenotypes of psychiatric disease. I am also interested in the policy processes involved in funding and management of science as well as the development and utilization of novel technologies to accelerate research capabilities.

2017 – Neuroscience Training Program Training Grant Merit Award
2017 – Society for Neuroscience Trainee Professional Development Award

Expected graduation date: 2021

What was so appealing about the program for you?
The Neuroscience and Public Policy program provides a great opportunity to engage in two great programs simultaneously and to be able to take lessons from each and apply them successfully in the other. This program provides an incredible diversity of perspectives and approaches that help me to learn a lot about science, policy, and their intersection.

What experiences shaped your decision to enroll in the Neuroscience and Public Policy program at UW-Madison?
I worked at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies from 2014 to 2016, where I gained valuable experience across many different science and technology policy areas. This work inspired me to pursue further training, and the Neuroscience and Public Policy program at UW-Madison represented the perfect opportunity to achieve this goal.

What is your dissertation research focused on? What are you learning, what techniques are you using? What excites you about this research?
My ongoing graduate research focuses on understanding the molecular, structural, and behavioral components of neuropsychiatric disease through the utilization of genetic animal models of disease, specifically focusing on autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia. These models enable cross-cutting systems neuroscience and imaging research on a) microstructural neural changes, b) transcriptomic, proteomic, and synaptogenic alterations within the brain, and c) behavioral components of neuropsychiatric disease. I am learning a lot about advanced diffusion tensor and positron emission tomography neuroimaging techniques.

In what on- or off-campus volunteer activities do you participate?

I participate in NTP Outreach activities that aim to engage the general public with neuroscience, helping children, students, and people of all ages to learn more about the brain.

What are your career goals?
I hope to be able to interact with and guide policy development for science funding and management at the federal level. I want to lead programs that bridge technology innovation from many different fields (e.g.: engineering, computer science, and physics) and utilize them to maximize the success of our neuroscience and health research endeavors.

How has your N&PP experience (classes, research, etc) set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
My lab research experiences have introduced me to many novel technologies and techniques for brain imaging, helping me to better grasp how multi-disciplinary and systems-level basic research can succeed. All of my La Follette coursework so far has been very useful for gaining a more complete understanding of the policy-making process and methods for analyzing and comparing policy options.

What advice would you give to prospective N&PP students?
As soon as possible, formulate a timeline and plan that will allow you to cover all of the great opportunities offered by this program. You will want to identify when you will take coursework for both NTP and La Follette requirements and make sure that they all line up with your individual research activities to allow you to achieve all of your goals! There is a good amount of flexibility in the program, but you will still need good planning skills.

People would be surprised if they knew …
That I love playing and performing music in many different forms, ideally as loudly as possible!