Brian Barnett, MPA, Ph.D. in Neuroscience


Columbia, Maryland

Undergraduate education

Bachelor’s degrees in physiology & neurobiology from University of Maryland, College Park, 2014


2017 – Neuroscience Training Program Training Grant Merit Award
2017 – Society for Neuroscience Trainee Professional Development Award

Why the La Follette School?

I was very excited by the Neuroscience & Public Policy combined program. I found that La Follette provided the perfect opportunity to combine my Ph.D. track with a top-tier public policy graduate program.

Career goals

I hope to interact with and guide policy development for science funding and management at the federal level. I want to lead programs that bridge technology innovation from many different fields (e.g. engineering, computer science, and physics) and utilize them to maximize the success of our neuroscience and health research endeavors.

Research assistantship

I hold a research assistantship through the Neuroscience Training Program (NTP) with mentorship from Dr. JP Yu. My ongoing graduate research focuses on understanding the molecular, structural, and behavioral components of neuropsychiatric disease through the utilization of genetic animal models of disease, specifically focusing on autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia.

These models enable cross-cutting systems neuroscience and imaging research on a) microstructural neural changes, b) transcriptomic, proteomic, and synaptogenic alterations within the brain, and c) behavioral components of neuropsychiatric disease. I am learning about advanced diffusion tensor imaging techniques as well as cellular and molecular analytic approaches.

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?

My lab research experiences have introduced me to many novel technologies and techniques for brain imaging, helping me to better grasp how multi-disciplinary and systems-level basic research can succeed. All of my La Follette coursework so far has been very useful for gaining a more complete understanding of the policy-making process and methods for analyzing and comparing policy options.

Client-based course projects

In PA 878: Introduction to Public Management, I worked with other La Follette School students on a project that provided an analysis of the Madison Public Library’s management structure. We highlighted specific strengths and challenges as they pertain to the Madison Public Library’s mission and core values.

Beyond analyzing the current state of the Madison Public Library, we also made recommendations on two management issues: maximizing service delivery to diverse populations and defining and measuring outcome goals. This project was a great experience in learning about Madison Public Library’s vision for growth, hearing from diverse managers and staff members, and identifying where we could apply our analytic skills to support the Library’s work.

What did you do before enrolling at the La Follette School?

I worked at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies from 2014 to 2016, where I gained valuable experience across many different science and technology policy areas. This work inspired me to pursue further training, and the Neuroscience and Public Policy program at UW–Madison represented the perfect opportunity to achieve this goal.

Off-campus activities

I participate in NTP outreach activities that aim to engage the general public with neuroscience, helping children, students, and people of all ages to learn more about the brain.

People would be surprised if they knew that I …

love playing and performing music in many different forms, ideally as loudly as possible!