Marta Williams '19

Just months after graduating from Luther with a biology major, Marta Williams boarded an overnight flight to Germany, where she is already hard at work investigating a possible future treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

“I’m using mouse models to test the possible neuroprotective effects of a compound called polysialic acid,” she says of her research, which she is conducting as a Fulbright scholar at the Bonn Center of Neuroscience at the University of Bonn, Germany.

Marta’s journey to a Fulbright began in the Sampson Hoffland laboratory of Stephanie Fretham ’05, assistant professor of biology. Professor Fretham investigates the effect of metals on the nervous system and the interaction between genetic and environmental factors in the development of neurodegenerative disease.

“Gaining experience in Dr. Fretham’s lab at Luther opened a lot of doors for me,” Marta says.

“It was that initial lab experience that allowed me to gain even more complex lab experience.”

Marta spent one summer conducting research at the University of Minnesota, another at New York University, and a third at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in California, where she continued to study neurological disease. After the Bonn Center, she has her sights set on medical school and ultimately on a career in neurology, neurosurgery, or maybe psychiatry.

“Neuroscience is an area where medicine and research really do coexist,” she says. “There is so much related to neurodegenerative diseases that we don’t know yet—and that makes it an intriguing area to study.”