Metika Ngbokoli is a third-year doctoral student in the Behavioral and Integrative Neuroscience Program. “In addition to my research, I am passionate about science outreach and want to help increase the visibility of women of color in STEM.” She serves as a Graduate Student Fellow with the Center for Faculty Excellence and is co-chair of public relations for the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association. She received her undergraduate degree from Connecticut College and is a “proud native of Yonkers, N.Y.”
What made you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?
To be honest, I knew I wanted to go to school on the East Coast so I could visit home with relative ease. Once I visited and had a chance to chat with the current grad students, I knew this would be a place that I wouldn’t mind spending five-to-six years in. At the end of the day, there is a sense of community, especially among other grad students of color, that makes me feel comfortable and supported. I like to say that Carolina chose me.
Tell us about your research.
My primary research area of interest focuses on investigating the neurobiology of drug addiction and how decision-making is affected. In the Carelli [Stephen B. Baxter Distinguished Professor Regina Carelli] lab, we study how the brain processes information regarding rewards and uses that information to guide goal-directed behaviors in rodents. My research specifically investigates the effects of abstinence from cocaine self-administration during decision-making tasks by analyzing the animal’s behavior and brain activity.
What does it mean to be a first-generation graduate student in your family?
It is honestly surreal being a first-generation graduate student. While graduate school is very isolating, I feel like I am doing this not only for myself but my family as well. They have always supported my decisions, even if it meant venturing into uncharted territory and moving far from home. At times, it does feel a little burdensome, but I know I have the support I need even when I don’t feel like I can make it to the end.
What are you hoping to accomplish with your Carolina degree?
After I graduate, I hope to pursue a career as a tenure-track faculty member at a liberal arts institution. My own discomfort in predominantly white spaces has motivated me to pursue a career as a researcher in an effort to diversify the academy. Ideally, I would like to serve roles as an educator, researcher and mentor; providing a space in which diversity at all levels is emphasized and valued.