McWilliams is a 2013-2017 Self Graduate Fellow pursuing a Ph.D. in molecular and integrative physiology at the KU Medical Center. She has taken advantage of life’s classrooms to shape her future. College, volunteer work, internships, and a stint in industry helped shape her desire to work in drug development. McWilliams worked in her hometown of Reno, Nev., for several years in behavioral and occupational therapy. Her patients were individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who suffered from chronic medical conditions. She learned that often there were few, if any, effective medical therapies for these patients. Their “diseases and conditions are largely overlooked because they are considered benign conditions.” She saw treatments that “are inadequate yet widely accepted as good enough.” Those experiences motivated her to continue her pursuit of a career in biomedical sciences. Two years at Santa Cruz Biotechnology in Paso Robles, Calif., gave her research experience in an industrial setting prior to joining the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences at KU Medical Center in 2012. McWilliams received her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of San Diego (2008). She received awards and scholarships including the SBC Foundation Scholarship, the USD Trustee Scholarship, the College Board AP Scholar Award and the Pagini Memorial Scholarship. Her work at KUMC is focused on small molecule drug development to treat uterine fibroids, a chronic health condition that affects almost 25 percent of all women, and yet receives little attention from companies and policymakers. McWilliams hopes to make a difference for people suffering from chronic and neglected conditions through her work in biomedical drug development.
Mentor: Vargheese M. Chennathukuzhi, assistant professor, molecular and integrative physiology, KU Medical Center