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Student Profile: Ambrosia Simmons

When she was growing up in New Mexico, Ambrosia J. Simmons’ mother often took her to where she worked, a home for children who had been born HIV-positive. “I knew then that when I grew up I wanted to figure out a way to help them,” she recalls.

Last year, Simmons completed the three-year PhD portion of her combined MD/PhD program by tackling how genetics affect neural development. Working with Seonhee Kim, PhD, an associate professor in both the School of Medicine and the Shriners Hospitals Pediatric Research Center, the University of Michigan chemical engineering graduate continues to focus on how neural stem cell defects can lead to perinatal death and life-long disabilities ranging from epilepsy to developmental disorders.

“My critical thinking skills, my writing skills and learning how to think like a scientist have all greatly improved,” says Simmons, who gave birth to twins during her PhD program. “I also appreciate the emphasis on finishing my PhD program in three years, which other programs can drag out.”

After completing her MD in 2019, Simmons says, “I hope to spend 80 percent of my time in the lab, probably working on brain development, and 20 percent of my time working clinically with kids who have some of the conditions I am studying.”