Q&A with Kia Fuller

Genetics & Genomics Graduate Student in the lab of Connie Mulligan, a UFGI faculty member and professor in the department of anthropology
Fuller joined the program in 2014
This interview has been condensed, and edited, for clarity.


Kia Fuller

Kia Fuller

Can you tell me about the research you do in Dr. Mulligan’s lab?

It’s a project that is based on community participatory research, and the focus is American-Americans with hypertension. I’ve been working on how social networks and genetics can be used to understand blood pressure in that community. (Note: By social networks, Fuller refers the people in a subject’s interpersonal community, not web-based social networks) We had social network data in the [project surveying African-Americans in Tallahassee], but no one was touching it, and I thought it was really cool. A lot of what is done is understanding how the size of the network, the structure, and the characteristics of the people in your network affect your health.


Why are you particularly interested in the issue of health disparities?

You would think that by now with all of the advances we’ve made in research and in genetics, we would have a firmer understanding of why some groups of people suffer disproportionately from diseases than others, but it’s not exactly well known. African-Americans and women typically suffer more from health disparities compared to other groups.

I was always interested in health, and helping people in general. That’s why I was originally Pre-Med. I didn’t realize I was more interested in the research, but I still wanted to work with understanding cancer, and how that happens. It feels like this is just a logical extension of that.


How has the Genetics & Genomics program facilitated your research?

There’s so many resources, and there’s so much you can do with the Genetics & Genomics graduate program. I work in Dr. Mulligan’s lab, and because of the Genetics & Genomics program I have contacts in pharmacogenomics, psychology, the business school… It enables you to have access to a wide variety of sources that you might not have otherwise.


What do you want to do professionally after you complete the program?

I’ve gone back and forth between wanting to stay in academia, and wanting to do something outside– not necessarily industry. Like, non-profits, or working for the CDC, or WHO, or something like that. And I think that’s more of where I’m leaning, because I’m more interested in affecting public policy, and helping people that way. Which is also why I’m going to be getting a Master of Public Health degree, while I’m also getting the PhD. I’ve been working toward the epidemiology concentration. It might take longer, but I feel as though the experiences and the knowledge I gain is worth it. I get to have all these experiences. I got to go to field school in Tallahassee, and learn how to ethnographically interview people, and stay with a host family. I got to go to a conference where I was an Idea Scholar, and we discussed diversity in evolutionary anthropology.


What is your life like outside the program?

I got two kittens in November. Their names are Steve and Tony, because I love Marvel. They’re domestic shorthairs, and they’re really cute. They’re brown and white. And one of them has a little marking that looks like a little sleeve tattoo. They’re brothers, and we were originally only going to get one, and then they were in the same little carrier, and we were like, “We can’t separate them!” And so we got two.