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Dionna Whitney Williams, Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Dionna Whitney Williams, Ph.D.
  • Assistant Professor of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology

Research Interests

HIV; Central nervous system drug delivery; Neuroimmunology; Substance abuse

Background

Dr. Dionna Williams has expertise in neuroscience, immunology, and pharmacology. Her research interests are in the neuropathogenesis of HIV, regulatory mechanisms of neuroimmune signaling, drug delivery to the central nervous system, and immunologic and pharmacologic contributors to health disparities.

She received her undergraduate degree cum laude from Hofstra University, where she studied biochemistry. She earned a master’s degree with distinction and a doctorate in biomedical science from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. As a doctoral candidate, she received the UNCF/Merck Graduate Science Research Dissertation Fellowship and support from the Mount Sinai Institute for NeuroAIDS Disparities. Dr. Williams pursed her postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins to perform immunology, pharmacology, and health disparities research. While a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Williams earned a certificate in health disparities and health inequalities from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. During the tenure of her postdoctoral fellowship, Dr. Williams was awarded the K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health and the Johns Hopkins Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowship. Additionally, she received support from the Translational Research in NeuroAIDS and Mental Health Center and the National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Program.

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Titles

  • Assistant Professor of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology
  • Assistant Professor of Medicine

Departments / Divisions

Education

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University (Bronx) (New York) (2014)
  • B.Sc., Hofstra University (New York) (2009)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Central nervous system efficacy of HIV antiretroviral therapy

The goal of the Williams Lab is to identify the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which HIV, drugs of abuse, and the antiretroviral therapies (ART) used to treat the virus synergize to promote damage to the central nervous system (CNS).

One of the major challenges in HIV eradication is the existence of anatomic reservoirs – organs in which sustained viral replication occurs despite successful treatment with ART. The brain represents one of the most challenging HIV reservoirs, as it is infected as early as eight days after primary infection and is separated from the rest of the body by the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which prevents ART from freely entering into the brain. As a result, HIV in the brain is not quelled to the same extent as to what occurs in peripheral organs.

Currently, a major focus of the Williams Lab is to 1) identify the drug transporters that facilitate ART extravasation across the BBB, 2) characterize the penetrance of ART into distinct anatomic brain regions, and 3) determine efficacy of ART resident brain cells susceptible to HIV infection, including microglia and astrocytes, in the context of drug abuse.

Openings in the Williams Laboratory

Are you highly motivated, excited about the work we do, and want to work together as part of a team pursuing interdisciplinary, high-level research? If so, there’s a spot for you in the Williams Laboratory! Dr. Williams is passionate about mentorship and knows firsthand how integral it is to success. As such, your personal and professional goals are equally as important as your scientific development. If this sounds like a good fit for you, please inquire about positions available within the lab by contacting Dr. Williams at dwill201@jhmi.edu.

The Williams Laboratory is recruiting postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate students.

Contact for Research Inquiries

733 N. Broadway
MRB 849
Baltimore, MD 21205 map
Phone: 410-955-9770

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