Student Athlete Interview: Diana Brown

On pursuing an M.D. and studying eukaryotic cell signaling

Diana Brown (Image courtesy of UI Athletics)
On pursuing an M.D. and studying eukaryotic cell signaling

The redshirt senior and starting Illini volleyball setter just graduated with a 4.0 GPA in cell and molecular biology. On the court, Brown, ’22 LAS, started all 34 matches during the 2021 season, playing in all 127 sets. She totaled 1,310 assists, ranking her sixth in the Big Ten. In her last season, Brown is earning her community health master’s degree and applying to medical school.

How did you decide to pursue a medical career? My uncle is a surgeon, and I wanted to be Dr. Brown, as well. I chose as many high-school science classes as I could. Knowing that the
U of I values academics as well as athletics made coming here an easy choice.

What professors have influenced you? One of my favorite professors is Dr. [Jie] Chen, for eukaryotic cell signaling. She taught us how cells signal, and on exams, asked us to design a signaling pathway using what we’d learned. It wasn’t just memorization; it was innovative and really opened my mind.

How does academic success influence your role on the team? I’ve tutored almost all my teammates. It starts as, “Diana, can you help me with this problem?” Then, it turns into a 20-minute conversation about their lives. The process builds bonds and creates friendships.