2022 NIDA-NIAAA NIMH Diversity Supp

Dionna Williams, PhD

Originally from Bridgeport, Connecticut, Dionna’s early love for science and desire to understand human disease focused her aspirations towards biomedical research. A first-generation college student, Dionna graduated Cum Laude from Hofstra University before attending the Albert Einstein College of Medicine for her graduate studies. Three years after pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University, Dionna joined the faculty and is currently an Assistant Professor in the department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology. Her research focuses on the effects of HIV and comorbid substance abuse on neuropsychiatric disease, the ability of antiretroviral therapy to effectively limit HIV infection in the brain, and how the immune response shapes neurologic disease during HIV. Dionna also incorporates studies evaluating biologic contributors that perpetuate HIV health disparities into her research program. Dionna is passionate about encouraging trainees from underrepresented backgrounds in their scientific journeys, supporting faculty underrepresented in science and medicine as they navigate the academic landscape, and dedicated to increasing our understanding of the intersection between substance abuse and HIV neuroimmunology.


  •         Junior Investigator Pioneer Award, International Society for NeuroVirology
  •         Arthur Falek Young Investigator Award, Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology
  •         Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research Award
  •         NIDA Early Career Investigator Showcase Travel Award
  •         100 Inspiring Black Scientists in America
  •         Rising Star – Scientific Investigator Alumni Award, Albert Einstein College of Medicine


  •         National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Program for Health Disparities Research, four-time recipient
  •         Keystone Symposia Underrepresented Trainee Scholarship
  •         NIDA Early Career Investigator Showcase Travel Award
  •         NIH National Medical Association Academic Medicine Fellow

Funding Opportunities:

  •         UNCF/Merck Graduate Research Dissertation Fellowship
  •         Mount Sinai Institute for NeuroAIDS Disparities
  •         Translational Research in NeuroAIDS and Mental Health Center
  •         Johns Hopkins University Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowship
  •         NIDA K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award
  •         NIDA R01, NIMH R01 (Co-I)

Fun Facts:

  •         Black belt in Tae Kwon Do and Hap Ki Do
  •         Amateur Muay Thai Fighter (undefeated in competition)

·         Almost went to a performing arts high school, but chose to go to a science high school instead