DPC Newsletter

Spotlight on Student Research Experiences

Volume 8, Issue 3

December 2023

XULA BUILD celebrates ninth cohort with #MeetCohort9

By Hansook Oh

Project Pathways BUILD program at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) celebrated their ninth cohort on social media with the hashtag #MeetCohort9. Below are their posts highlighting each student. To see more posts from XULA BUILD, visit their Instagram profile.

Meet Cohort 9’s Dymaund, a biology major who fell in love with XULA after a campus tour. She was happy she chose @xula1925 as she has been provided with many new opportunities! She plans to obtain her Master of Science and apply for a MD/PhD program. 

Meet Cohort 9’s biology major, Alicia! She chose XULA to be immersed in a tight-knit community with a rich history in STEM! She plans to pursue her physician scientist degree and engage in molecular biology research.

Meet Cohort 9’s biology major, Brayanna! She chose XULA for our excellent history and reputation for sending African Americans to medical school. During her time at Xavier, she has appreciated XULA's robust preparation and cultivating atmosphere! In the future, she plans to pursue her Medical Doctor/Master of Public Health (MD/MPH). 

Meet Cohort 9’s biology major, Layla! She chose XULA to be academically challenged and to be amongst initiative-taking individuals who are on the pre-health professional track! In the future, she plans to attend medical school and specialize in dermatology. 

#MeetCohort9's biology major, Karleigh! She chose XULA to be surrounded by likeminded individuals and to grow in her Catholic faith. In the future, she plans to become a pediatric neurologist. 

Meet Cohort 9’s chemistry major, Amanda! She initially chose XULA for her interest in engineering but pivoted to science after falling in love with chemistry! She plans to pursue her PhD in chemistry and hopes to work in the pharmaceutical industry to develop vaccines and medications for the community. 

Meet Cohort 9’s biology major, Jamiah! She chose XULA knowing XULA would provide her with the comfort and opportunities to confidently enter the healthcare field. She plans to engage in medical practice and research in the future.

Meet Cohort 9’s neuroscience major, A'yanna! She chose XULA as the support she received from Xavierites and alum made her quickly recognize how Xavier is like family! She plans to obtain her master's degree in biomedical sciences and earn her MD so that she can work in medicine and research. She also hopes to work abroad to further contribute to global science and medicine. 

Meet Cohort 9’s biology major, Kai! She chose XULA from the sense of community and family she felt after visiting the campus. She believes XULA has provided her with the education and preparation necessary to be a leader beyond the classroom! She plans to obtain her MS in Biomedical Sciences and pursue medical school. 

Meet Cohort 9’s biology major, Christopher! He chose XULA as he was inspired to attend a school with other Black students who share similar goals. He plans to pursue his MD to become a physician and also plans to further contribute to research. 

Meet Cohort 9’s biology major, Makenzi! She chose XULA because she knew XULA was the best university to prepare her for a healthcare career. In the future, she plans to attend dental school.

Meet Cohort 9’s biology major, Ja'Lynn! She chose XULA for the university's nurturing environment. In the future, she plans to pursue medical school to become a dermatologist. 

Closing out #MeetCohort9 is biology major, Kayla! She chose XULA as we're known for sending the most Black students to medical school. XULA helped her discover her passion for research and in the future, she plans to obtain her PhD in genetics or immunology.

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UMBC STEM BUILD alumni stay connected to mentors as they thrive in new roles

By Sarah Hansen

Recent alumni from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) STEM BUILD program are thriving in graduate school and post-baccalaureate positions all over the country. Even as they move on physically from the close-knit community they built with their mentors and peers, they’ve prioritized staying connected and building on skills they gained as BUILD trainees.

Emily Marinko presenting research at a UMBC research conference while she was an undergraduate.

Emily Marinko presenting research at a UMBC research conference while she was an undergraduate.

Emily Marinko, a 2023 biological sciences graduate,  is pursuing a master’s in biological sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Her first opportunity for faculty mentored research resulted from an informational interview with a faculty member that was required as part of a course for STEM BUILD trainees.

Her interviewee, Mercedes Burns, assistant professor of biological sciences, became her research mentor after they connected well during the interview. Marinko went on to present her work on Opiliones (Daddy longlegs) evolution at multiple conferences.

In her current role, Marinko is a graduate teaching assistant for an introductory biology course. 

“My teaching style is heavily inspired by Dr. Maria Cambraia Guimaro, a STEM BUILD staff member who I greatly admire,” said Marinko, who also continues to conduct research.

She added that Cambraia, who is the assistant director for research and international affairs in the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences at UMBC, was a very important part of her support system at UMBC. 

Cambraia encouraged STEM BUILD alumni to stay in touch after graduation, and she “is still a source of constant support for us even though we’re no longer STEM BUILD trainees or even UMBC students,” Marinko said.

Always there to talk

Kevin Gibbons, a 2023 biological studies graduate, conducted ovarian cancer research as a BUILD trainee with Achuth Padmanabhan, assistant professor of biological sciences. 

Today, he’s in his first year of a PhD program in biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The program structure means Gibbons is focusing on classes this semester rather than the research he loves, but he has embraced the opportunity to learn new things. 

“I have really loved getting to explore foundational concepts in biology and new interests of mine including regenerative and developmental biology,” Gibbons said. Gibbons added that he’s grateful for the continued support from the STEM BUILD community of mentors, including Padmanabhan and others.

“Dr. Maria Cambraia and [former STEM BUILD staff member] Ms. Meika Samuel have been so supportive as I have transitioned to graduate school,” Gibbons said. “The course load I am taking has been extremely demanding, and they are always happy to jump on a call anytime I need someone to talk to.”

STEM BUILD affiliates Kevin Gibbons (left), Amir Ledbetter (center) and Senali Dansou at ABRCMS 2022.

STEM BUILD affiliates Kevin Gibbons (left), Amir Ledbetter (center) and Senali Dansou at ABRCMS 2022.

Growth with deep roots

Examples of other recent graduates finding success beyond UMBC include Senali Dansou, a 2023 biochemistry and molecular biology graduate, who conducted research with Deepak Koirala, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry. Dansou is now pursuing an MD/PhD at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Senali Dansou presented his research at ABRCMS 2022.

Senali Dansou presented his research at ABRCMS 2022.

Grace Tugado, a 2023 chemical engineering graduate, conducted research with Jennie Leech, associate professor of chemical, biochemical and environmental engineering. Now Tugado is pursuing a master’s in biomedical engineering at Boston University.

Caroline Moore, a 2023 biological science graduate, is a researcher at University of Massachusetts, Boston in the Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) program. And Toni Martin, a 2023 biological sciences graduate, is conducting postbaccalaureate research at the National Cancer Institute on an Intramural Research Training Award.

These are just a few examples of the most recent UMBC STEM BUILD alumni who are finding success in new roles. They know they can always find support among the STEM BUILD community, no matter where they go, and they are sure to continue building on the networks, skills and knowledge they gained at UMBC as they go on to make a positive difference through research.

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The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.

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