Dr. Kafui Dzirasa studies brain wave patterns in his lab.

Who is Dr. Kafui Dzirasa?

Dr. Kafui Dzirasa, 34, is the first African-American to complete a PhD in neurobiology at Duke University. In 2009, he also received an MD from the same institution. He is now an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science while completing his residency training in psychiatry.

As principal investigator for Duke’s Laboratory for Psychiatric Engineering, Dzirasa’s work has been recognized and featured nationally.

Why is he on theGrio’s 100?

Dzirasa is laying down the foundation to ultimately combine his research background, medical training and community experience to help those dealing with neurological and psychiatric illnesses.

“Every year, nearly one in four American adults is affected by a neuropsychiatric illness,” he says. “My work aims to alleviate the personal and societal suffering that results from these illnesses.”

His current research focuses on understanding how changes in the brain lead to neurological and mental illness. One project in particular looks at the mind’s response to stress and how two individuals experiencing the same traumatic event react differently. For example, one person’s reaction may be to become tougher and stronger, while the other is devastated, depressed and suicidal.

He is inspired and driven by the ability science has to improve people’s lives.

What’s next for Dr. Dzirasa?

“More science,” he says with a smile.

He and his team will continue to study how the brain works, and develop new tools to treat neuropsychiatric illnesses.