Life in Baltimore: Young Baltimorean attains goal of becoming a scientist


Baltimore native Tonya N. Taylor, Ph.D. knew she wanted to be a scientist from a young age because she wanted to help her brother who had cerebral palsy.

A graduate of St. Paul’s School for Girls, Taylor completed her undergraduate studies majoring in chemistry at Duke University. In 2010, she graduated from Emory University receiving Ph.D. in molecular and systems pharmacology. Currently Tonya works in medical affairs at Shire Pharmaceutical in neuroscience.

“Ever since my mother helped me with my first science fair project in the first grade, there has never been any other option for me,” Taylor said.

Her interest in neuroscience stemmed from her brother who had cerebral palsy. While studying pharmacology in graduate school, she was fortunate to have an amazing graduate adviser who encouraged her to think creatively and pushed her to work harder than she thought she could. He encouraged her to question, accept mistakes and keep experimenting.

Until 2014, Taylor pursued a career in academic science studying Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases using mouse models of both diseases. Last year, she decided to switch career paths to work in medical affairs for a pharmaceutical company, Shire. As a medical science liaison, she meets with researchers and doctors to learn about the needs of patients, facilitate scientific exchange, and educate healthcare providers on disease states. This career change has allowed her to make a bigger impact on patients’ lives.

Dr. Taylor is a member of the Society for Neuroscience and the Healthcare Businesswoman ‘s Association. She has volunteered with local middle and high schools judging state science fair competitions. She enjoys assisting with local and state science fairs because it provides the opportunity to encourage more children to pursue careers in science.

She has received several awards and fellowships including the Neuroscience Scholars Program, Society of Neurosciences; a pre-doctoral National Research Service Award from NIH; and Emory Graduate Diversity Fellowship, Emory University.

Dr. Taylor is the daughter of Kenneth and Pearlie Taylor. She has been able to travel and live abroad during her career and always uses it as a way to learn more about people and learn other perspectives.

Taylor says she lives her life according to the words of author Henry Miller who wrote: “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”