Kaela Singleton, PhD

Scottie Making Waves: Kaela Singleton, PhD 

B.S. Neuroscience, Agnes Scott ‘14
Solving for Science, Campaign Manager

Known affectionately among her peers as the “Beyonce of Neuroscience,” Dr. Singleton has dedicated her career to researching and curing neurological diseases in children. But before the accolades and recognition (and there are many), there was Kaela the middle school student who had never met a scientist, let alone one who looked like she—but who lit up with joy and fascination after participating in a dissection activity as part of a science outreach program. Today, there’s the Black, Samoan and Queer developmental neuroscientist investigating Menkes disease, and a mentor on a mission to be the example she wishes she could have had to look up to.

The Call to Lead

In addition to her research and teaching, Dr. Singleton is co-founder and president-elect of Black In Neuro. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit’s mission is to diversify the neurosciences by building a community that celebrates and empowers Black scholars and professionals in neuroscience-related fields. 

“Our goal is to provide resources and a sense of community for Black people who are interested in neuro-related fields. A big part of what we do is professional development workshops where we practice things like job interviews, writing personal statements, writing CVs and negotiating to try and bridge the gap in access that Black students and Black people face in this field in comparison to their non-Black peers.”
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Claiming My Place

Now a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Cell Biology at Emory University, Dr. Singleton has already been recognized as a leader in neuroscience:

How I Went Beyond The Books at Agnes Scott 

Agnes Scott’s neuroscience major drew Dr. Singleton in, but it was how she was treated before becoming a Scottie that sealed the deal.

Agnes Scott prioritized the interview. I just felt like they met me and got to know me much better, seeing me as much more than my GPA. They also had the small class sizes I was used to from my gifted program, where you can get to know your teachers really well.”
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She also thrived among the diversity of peers and faculty in her program.

One of the reasons I became a part of Black In Neuro was because after I left Agnes and went to graduate school, there weren’t that many, if any, Black neuroscientists around me.
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Transforming Tomorrow

“I’m really interested in the way the brain forms and develops, so I study neurodevelopment and work with rare genetic disorders. A lot of my research tries to look at what we know about adult degeneration, and if we can apply it to childhood degenerative diseases like Menkes disease—which has an average life expectancy of around five years old—so we can help children live longer, better lives.

This is one of the many benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion, representation and accountability within the field: with a diversity of scientists, with different perspectives and identities at the table, it naturally increases what we invest in investigating. For example, we are only now beginning to research the effect of birth control on the brains of people with a uterus. There were previously plenty of people doing research, but not a lot of diversity in the questions they were asking.”
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About That Nickname

Feeling at a low point during her graduate studies, Dr. Singleton relaxed one evening by watching the Beyonce documentary “Homecoming,” and it flipped a switch for her.

“I realized that the only way I was going to get through graduate school was to embrace my inner Beyonce and be the best version of myself.”
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After sharing the story of encouragement at a neuroscience conference, the name stuck, and Dr. Singleton ran with it.

Empower Women Of Every Identity To Claim Their Place