Letter from the Director

Nael McCarty, Ph.D.

The GDBBS has welcomed 58 new PhD students plus nine new MD/PhD students to our PhD programs.  We are glad to have these new students with us, and look forward to helping them progress through their first-year courses and selection of their lab homes.  At new-student orientation on August 23, we took the opportunity to introduce the new students to our Division staff, and to make them aware of all of the great infrastructure that is in place within the Division and the Laney Graduate School to help ensure their success.  

We also took a few minutes to remind them why they are here.  The main focus for them is to achieve the following core competencies:  gaining skills in critical thinking, gaining skills in problem solving, obtaining technical skills relevant to their area of interest, generating new knowledge, and gaining skills in communication to scientific audiences.  Over time, our students also need to focus on professionalization, such as by learning about:  time management, project management, team building, leadership, innovation, conflict management, communication to broader audiences, and the business and law of science.  Accomplishing both of those goals (obtaining both the core competencies and professionalization skills) will prepare them for a wide variety of career opportunities within and outside of academia.

We suggested that as they move through the graduate school experience, the following concepts will help them achieve long-term success:

•    Work hard, from day one, including getting accustomed to the notion that grad school ≠ undergrad.

•    Plan ahead, and pay attention to the ticking clock.

•    Build up your sense of “resilience” by accomplishing milestones, getting data, making presentations, being “visible,” learning from everyone around you.

•    Communicate, communicate, communicate.  Reach out when you need help.

•    Pay attention to “wellness” in whatever way works for you.

At the GDBBS Awards Banquet on October 22, we celebrated our amazing students, faculty, staff, and alumni, all of whom contribute to making the GDBBS and our eight Programs the amazing places they are to receive state-of-the-art training and career development.

Together with our outstanding faculty, the GDBBS is working hard to help our students accomplish their career goals.   Thanks for your continued support!

Emory STEM Symposium Draws Diverse Students from Around the Country

Connor Morozumi

The Laney Graduate School convened the 4th annual Emory STEM Research and Career Symposium on September 18th-20th drawing over 115 students from across the country and from several international universities. Students were welcomed by Emory alumni Dr. Chad R. Jackson, a current AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, and Dr. Michael L. Lomax, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Negro College Fund. The symposium, held at the Emory Conference Center, also featured breakout sessions, student oral talks, and two poster sessions.

   For first year Emory PhD student Brent Allman (Population Biology, Ecology, and Evolution) the STEM symposium was a way to connect with a diverse group of young researchers, some he had met at previous conferences and was able to reconnect with. “It’s a way to build a community of students who care about diversity,” he said in a bustling morning poster session. 

   Undergraduate and graduate students presented on a wide breadth of research topics. Topics that ranged from brain imaging to vocal learning in songbirds and from geospatial mapping of methamphetamine labs in Georgia to wildlife-human Dengue disease dynamics. Similarly broad were the universities and organizations represented at the STEM Symposium. Students from historically black universities such as Spelman College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Clark Atlanta University, Tuskegee University, Xavier University of Louisiana, and Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland as well as Hispanic-serving Institutions such as the University of Puerto Rico presented posters and gave oral presentations. Students traveled across the country from institutions including Oregon Health & Sciences University, Purdue, University of California San Diego, and Texas A&M University to attend the symposium.

   Heather Goldsborough, an undergrad student at University of Maryland Eastern Shore, attended the symposium to get a better sense of Master’s programs that she might be interested in applying for soon after she graduates. She said she appreciated Dr. Jackson’s keynote remarks about figuring out the purpose of attending graduate school before embarking on the endeavour. 

   Third year graduate student Binta Jalloh (Genetics and Molecular Biology) presented her research on intellectual disability in flies that was supported with assistance from the EmoryNIH-funded Initiative to Maximize Student Development (IMSD Program). She remarked that there was high investment of faculty members at Emory in graduate studies and that being at Emory was as she put it, “a blessing.”

   Breakout sessions included information about Emory’s graduate programs and several undergraduates presenting posters expressed interest in the MD/PhD program here at Emory. Sessions also included Research Opportunities for Undergraduates at Emory and Beyond, the Emory PhD Admissions Process, and Developing a Career Plan and Individual Development Plans.

   The Symposium is part of the Laney Graduate School’s Diversity in Action initiative to increase diversity in the graduate population at Emory.  Partners for the event included the School of Medicine, Emory College of Arts and Sciences, the Rollins School of Public Health, the Office of Postdoctoral Education and the Emory University Office of the Provost. GDBBS was one of seven major graduate training programs and divisions at Emory involved in the symposium. The successful three-day event showcased young researchers from diverse backgrounds sharing researchpresentations, mentoring, and networking with faculty members and alumni here at Emory.

STEM Symposium Keynote Speaker: Dr. Michael Lomax

Alyse Steves


The Emory University-Laney Graduate School STEM Research and Career Symposium, hosted by Laney Graduate School each year, brings a diverse background of undergraduate and graduate students to Emory’s campus. For two days students participate in poster and oral presentations, networking,  recruitment, and career development seminars. This year the STEM Symposium hosted a special keynote speaker, Dr. Michael Lomax, the president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund of the United States. He spoke to a crowd of hundreds on Monday night, recalling the past and the day Emory University enrolled its first African American student while also imploring students to push for a future where students with diverse backgrounds are no longer minorities in academia. 

   Dr. Lomax has a diverse background in education that includes positions at Morehouse College, Spelman College, Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Georgia, and Dillard University in New Orleans , as well as twelve years as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Fulton County. 

   During his speech, he highlighted the importance of minorities accumulating education, wealth, and power, particularly women of color. He beseeched the audience to aim high in their goals, make their name, and give back to their communities so that others can prosper from their generosity. Dr. Lomax stressed the importance of philanthropy in his speech, ending by asking others to make charitable donations to those in need and to always give back once you have succeeded to keep progress moving ever forward in STEM fields. 

Dr. Chad Jackson Speech at the 2016 STEM Symposium: Eager Juniors Encouraged to Reach Out To Senior Scientists

Amielle Moreno

An ex-Uber driver walks into a party at the Turkish embassy… 

   Immediately feeling out of place, this high-power happy-hour soiree is foreign in every connotation of the word. The ex-Uber driver shakes off the perspiration of self doubt and approached the Turkish ambassador. 

   In this true story, Dr. Chad R. Jackson is following his own advice to undergraduate minority scientists; treat yourself as a business and invest in yourself. This year’s STEM symposium kicked off with Alumnus Chad Jackson advising the next generation of minority students on this and other lessons he’s learned throughout his scientific career. He spoke of his experience starting as a cocky incoming grad student, to failing his first graduate biochem test, a monetarily challenged post-doc, to an advisor in the office of Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State. But what does this mean for you?

 Alumni, Chad Jackson just pointed a room full of up and coming minority scientists to your inboxes. He told them to be persistent, become comfortable and resistant to failure and to seek out help from senior scientists. This rousing yet casual speech definitely had attendees googling alumni to ask for advice and they’re not going to settle for landing in your trash can.  

   A climate of undeniable melatonin-based oppression has brought the issue of minority rights to dinner tables as well as the forefront of American politics. This elicits a broad range of responses from the American public including a sense of helplessness. Facing a systemic problem, sympathetic individuals are feeling all the responsibility of change yet none of the direction on how to discuss and address issues foreign to their own experiences.  

   Dr. Jackson’s speech provided biological science alumni an avenue to effect meaningful change in the world. While never addressed directly, the room of bushy tailed minority students at the STEM symposium narrowed their bright eyes on you. All alumni have to do is bridge the gap. 

   Dr. Chad Jackson praised a student who has e-mailed him for the past six months. “I should contact that young gentleman” he offhandedly remarked. It was a sad irony that a senior minority scientist, advising students to reach out for help, casually mentions ignoring a student not unlike those being addressed. This provided an example of how we can all improve by treating ourselves likebusinesses interested in assisting young scientists with the courage to reach out. 

   Personable and humble during his speech, Jackson shared a story about his time earning extra cash as an Uber driver during his post-doc. It was persistence and resistance to failure that provided Jackson the confidence to succeed, placing him in a position advocating for science in the State Department. 

  When Jackson approached the Turkish ambassador, this ex-Uber driver congratulated the ambassador on the recent investment in Turkish/American businesses, but asked “if he was considering cities like Detroit, Atlanta, St. Louis? Are you reaching out to American minorities to provide them opportunities?” Jackson hopes that his work inside the State Department will not only further american scientists but also encourage diverse perspectives through minority representation in the sciences. Now so should you. 

If you are interested in mentoring or just answering some questions from a young scientists who is not afraid to ask for help, please contact William Canon with Alumni Relations on the “Mentors on Call” program. His e-mail is wcanon@emory.edu


STEM Symposium Award Winners

Undergraduate Posters

1st Place:     

Nishone Thompson

2nd Place:     

Michelle Indarjit

Asia Payne

3rd Place:     

Carolina Regalado

Justin Thomas

Noa Erlitzki

Sarai Nwagbaraocha


Graduate Posters                

1st Place:

Theresa Gaines        

2nd Place:

Liza Burton    


Oral Presentations

 1st Place:

Jaqueline Rojas Robles

2nd Place:

Benem-Orom Davids