Office Hours: A.B.W.



Anatomy and Cell Biology Ph.D. Student


What inspired you to attend grad school?

My experience during my undergraduate career really pushed me to apply for graduate school. The classes I participated in at Oakwood University (OU), the Alabama Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (ALSAMP) Scholarship, and the research experiences during my undergraduate career at OU and Virginia Tech University (VT) revealed my passion for research. During the research-based classes, at OU, I started to turn my weaknesses into strengths so that I could start to gain the characteristics of an independent scientist. The course work emphasized presentation skills, how to dissect scientific papers, and to understand what it means to think critically. Also, the ALSAMP gave me the opportunity to improve on teaching skills, learn new lab skills, and present my research data at the ALSAMP symposium. The technical expertise I gained as part of the ALSAMP program in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and Mass Spectrometry was very rewarding. In addition, the research experience I had at Virginia Tech (VT) gave me an opportunity to learn new lab techniques, understand what was expected from graduate students, and learn of the career choices I would have after obtaining a Ph.D. in one of the STEM disciplines. The combination of experiences at OU and VT inspired me to apply to the Bridge to the Doctorate Program (BD) at UIC. 


Tell me about your proudest grad school moment. Why was it special for you?

My proudest moment in graduate school is when I gained self-respect and walked away from a toxic lab and advisor that was held me back career-wise. This was special for me because up until that moment I thought I didn’t deserve to be working towards my PhD. I am happy I came to the realization that I had what it took to be a successful researcher, and mistreatment was not a part of my journey. 


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten while in grad school? 

Take things one day at a time and have a good work/life balance. 


If you had to describe your Black graduate experience with one song, which one would it be?

"One Moment in Time" by Whitney Houston.


What has been your biggest obstacle in grad school? What strategies have you used to try to overcome it? 

I am passionate about creating a positive and inclusive environment, where people from different backgrounds can come together to work towards one common goal. A positive work environment is important, because a diverse team can look at the same issues from different angles. These different perspective pieced together create a complete picture allowing us to tackle the major issues, which decrease the quality of human life, effectively. Unfortunately, my last lab did not have the same core values, and during my time in my previous lab, I experienced racism and sexual harassment, which caused me to lose a sense of security. When I voiced my concerns about these issues, I was dismissed. So, I made the decision to transfer to the Anatomy and Cell Biology department and join the lab I’m in now. I also overcame this obstacle by making my channel! I understand so many people are discriminated against, and treated as if they are not capable of reaching their goals, because of who they are. Talent, drive, intelligence, and integrity comes in many packages, and I want to push for positive work environments. 


What has this experience (pursuing a graduate degree) taught you about yourself? 

This experience has helped me improve my communication, critical thinking, and research skills. 


If you could go back to the first day of grad school, what advice would you give to your- self? Why?

I would tell myself to take things one day at a time and to have a better work life balance. I was doing too much at once and I neglected myself to the point where my health declined physically and mentally. 


How do you think your identities have informed your graduate experience?

My pre-doctoral journey has been an eye opening experience. In general, I’ve always understood the hardships minorities face in today’s society and I’ve experienced it firsthand before I even applied to graduate school. Overall, being a black woman made my grad school experience harder than necessary. I found myself disappointed in the system and in realities of what grad school was really like. Like any other person who experiences trauma, it makes you really bitter, and at one point I felt like I was wasting my time. There is, however, good from some of my obstacles because I really want to push for a change in higher education. I don’t want other talented individuals going through my situation. I’m excited for a time where issues like this don’t exist, so we can really focus on making progress in our fields. 


How do you intend to use your degree in the future?

I would pursue a Dean of Diversity and Inclusion position, where I know I could really push for creating better lab/work environments for minorities. I want to see more minorities RETAINED in higher education, and that is an issue that needs to be tackled from many angles. In addition, I would love to mentor graduate students that are aspiring to be successful researchers. 


What’s something that you would tell someone who is interested in pursuing a similar path? 

To anyone pursuing a PhD in STEMs, have some self respect and boundaries, learn how to balance work and life, and do your best with everything that’s placed in front of you. 

Feel free to reach out to A.B.W.:

YouTube Channel: "Angry Black Woman Getting Her PhD"

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