Published: Sept. 1, 2021
Headshot of Pamela with flowers in the background

Pamela Romero Villela is a third year PhD student studying Behavioral, Psychiatric, and Statistical Genetics. Her research focuses on the genetics of substance abuse, particularly in underprivileged populations, and how this genetic liability interacts with socio-economic factors to influence substance use behaviors. Pamela was recently awarded a Research Excellence Award based on her accomplishments and contributions to the research community. We asked Pamela a few questions to learn more about her as a researcher and get to know her better. Read more below!

What advice do you have for someone who is interested in starting research?

Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to others! Surround yourself with a multitude of mentors and peers doing other forms of research. Each person will teach you a different way of looking at your research or the same problem, which will enable you to understand the problem from multiple disciplines and perspectives and therefore ask the most interesting or pressing questions.

What is a useful research skill you think everyone should have?

The ability and courage to ask questions about what you are doing and how it fits in with the big picture.

Why is your research important to the community or world at large?

98% of genetic studies to date have been in individuals of European descent. This lack of diversity leads to pharmaco-interventions not working as well or replicating in other populations and exacerbating health disparities caused by socio-economic factors. My research matters because understanding the common and unique genetic liabilities other communities have to addiction will lead to better medications and treatments for underrepresented individuals suffering from drug addiction.

Tell us a fun fact about you that is not related to your research or academics.

I love painting, listening to live jazz, and anime.

What is a good book you have read recently and why did you enjoy it?

The Color of Law - I was taken aback by how much I didn't know about systematic racism and how embedded it was in the US government.

If you could have dinner with anyone (living or dead), who would it be and why?

Leonardo da Vinci. I would ask him: how the heck were you so good at so many different things?!