Archive for: April, 2011

Samantha Cacace: The psychology of choosing psychology

Apr 28 2011 Published by under Behavioral Sciences, Meeting Presentations

One of the stated goals of the NIGMS RISE mechanism is to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups who pursue doctoral education in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. We are fortunate here at NCCU to have an excellent Department of Psychology (and other social sciences departments) who collaborate closely with the basic science departments. Psychology and Public Health Education faculty are key members, for example, of projects within a NCI U54 cancer research program to examine behavioral and community-based approaches to increasing cancer screening among local minority groups.

The position of the NCCU RISE internal advisory board has been that the behavioral sciences are intertwined with critical issues where basic sciences directly influence the human condition. What good is understanding dietary causes of diabetes, cancer, and/or obesity, if people don't or can't use this information to reduce their disease risk? And how do our interactions with one another influence our health?

Today, we bring you one of our RISE scholars from the Department of Psychology, Samantha Cacace. Sam is a completing her first year in the Master's Program in Psychology after getting hooked on the field over at our constituent member institution, NC State University in Raleigh (about 20 miles away). We've asked Samantha to tell us about her path to this discipline and elaborate on her first professional meeting presentation earlier this month.

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Melony Ochieng: A Thomas J. Bardos Science Education Award winner reflects on her first AACR Meeting

Apr 20 2011 Published by under Meeting Presentations, Reflections

NCCU RISE Scholar Melony Ochieng is currently a junior at North Carolina Central University where she is a double major in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Chemistry. She is currently the president of the NCCU student chapter of the American Chemical Society and a coordinator of Women Inspiring Learning Momentum, a mentoring program for middle-school girls.

Melony Ochieng. Photo: Nzingha Saunders
Melony Ochieng
Photo: Nzingha Saunders

Aside from her leadership positions, she is currently working on developing a drug delivery system for breast cancer under the guidance of Dr. Darlene Taylor in the Department of Chemistry. In addition to her NCCU experiences, Melony has interned at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill doing research in biophysics, at the University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznan, Poland, doing research in photophysics and photochemistry in conjunction with Dr. Stefan Franzen, North Carolina State University.  This coming summer she will intern at The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

In this post, Melony journals her experience at the 102nd Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Melony competed in the undergraduate research caucus as a 2011-2012 AACR-Thomas J. Bardos Science Education Awardee. (Background on Dr. Bardos and his named award can be found here.) Melony's project with Dr. Taylor was to synthesize a nanoparticle conjugate of the poorly-soluble breast cancer drug, fulvestrant, to enhance selective delivery of the active compound.

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Thoughts are with Shaw University

Apr 17 2011 Published by under Community, HBCU

An area of south Raleigh, NC, in and around the university was hard hit yesterday by a tornado.

Those of you in the US are probably aware that a huge swath of bad weather across the Southeast spawning tornadoes has killed dozens of people, 22 here in North Carolina alone.

One area hit heavily was just south of downtown Raleigh, the state capital, in and around the campus of Shaw University. Shaw is an independent, historically Black university founded in 1865.  Shaw was also home from 1881 to 1914 of Leonard Medical School and School of Pharmacy that graduated some of the most influential African-American physicians and pharmacists of their day. Among those was the late Dr. James E. Shepard, founder of our university.

While Shaw was fortunate that no students or staff were killed or injured, damage to the campus was extensive enough that Shaw President Dr. Irma McClaurin has canceled classes for the rest of the semester. A detailed letter explaining how school activities cannot be safely conducted is contained within this PDF of a letter released today.

The city has set up a shelter at Southeast Raleigh High School for all in the area, including about 150 Shaw students who are reported displaced. While the campus is normally easily accessed from the S Saunders St exit on Interstate 40 (#298), streets in the area are closed and authorities recommend that all except trained aid and utility workers stay out of the area today.

Update 1: This assembly of time-lapse images from WRAL-TV shows a large column developing from the south toward downtown Raleigh.

Update 2: The NOAA report (PDF) on the tornado activity across a 63-mile path indicates that the tornado decreased in intensity as it hit Shaw, then strengthened again as it moved northeast.

Update 3 (Mon 18 Apr): Columnist Barry Saunders of the Raleigh News & Observer wrote this morning that a fund has been established to defray the costs associated with this weekend's tornado damage:

President McClaurin said the school has set up a disaster relief fund at Mechanics & Farmers Bank at 13 E. Hargett St., Raleigh, 27601. [Indicate on checks that the funds are intended for the "Shaw University Disaster Relief Fund."]

I've been live-streaming Shaw's excellent jazz radio station, WSHA 88.9 FM, since I finished teaching this morning and am learning that the community is really coming out in support of all those affected by these tornadoes.

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Welcome to the NCCU Eagles RISE blog!

Apr 17 2011 Published by under HBCU, History


Greetings from North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham, North Carolina in the heart of the Research Triangle Park Region.

We are a four-year, comprehensive university that grants bachelor's, master's, and law degrees as one of 17 constituent institutions in The University of North Carolina system.

Founded in 1910 by pharmacist, theologian, and businessman, Dr. James E. Shepard, NCCU is also classified by the US Department of Education as one of the country's 105 historically-Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). HBCUs were defined by Congress in Title III of The Higher Education Act of 1965 as, "any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans." Among these, NCCU was the nation’s first state-supported liberal arts college for African-American students when North Carolina took fiscal responsibility for the school in 1925. This is a good primer on HBCUs in general.

While the current student body of 8,600 remains approximately 80% African-American, students from all backgrounds are welcome and seek out NCCU for its specialized programs in the sciences, the liberal arts, business, and law. As this blog develops, we will share with you some of the historical figures and current success stories that have originated at our institution.

What is RISE?

NIGMS has been operating the Minority Based Research Support (MBRS) program since 1972.

But you are a Scientopia reader and probably want to know what we have to do with this community. NCCU Eagles RISE is a project funded through a R25 mechanism by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). RISE, or Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement, is one component of the NIGMS Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) Program.

The goal of this program is to increase the number of NCCU students from underrepresented groups majoring in biology, chemistry, pharmaceutical sciences, and psychology that attain doctoral degrees and proceed to postdoctoral research training.

Why do we need such a program?

Students from underrepresented groups are just that: the percentage of students in the biomedical and behavioral sciences are far below those of the general population of the United States. Recent studies have revealed three major reasons for the poor entry rates and large attrition rates of minority students in doctoral programs: 1) less than desired student academic performance, 2) a failure to feel a part of the scientific community, and 3) a failure to feel capable of doing the work of a scientist (scientific self-efficacy). Dr. Martin Chemers, a social psychologist from UC-Santa Cruz whose research focuses on the success of underrepresented minorities in science and mathematics, reported that scientific self-efficacy and identity as a scientist were mediators of a commitment to a research career and recommended that programs should focus on these psychological factors.

The NCCU RISE program provides B.S. and M.S. students with research opportunities and one-on-one mentoring at NCCU and collaborating PhD-granting institutions together with the career development skills necessary for success in the tribe of science. One component of this program is the establishment of this blog as a mechanism for RISE Scholars to interact with members of the larger scientific community.

Who are we and why Scientopia?

This site is edited by NCCU RISE Principal Investigator, Dr. David Kroll (author of this post), and will feature the activities and writing of RISE undergraduates and master's students. Scientopia readers will recognize me as a long-time science blogger. I have been impressed by the power of this medium to increase the interaction of trainees with mentors - and each other - from across the US and around the world.

In fact, many of those who freely share their advice and experiences across the science blogosphere are right here at the Scientopia network. And Scientopia is also home to writers and scientists who have a strong track record of vocal commitment to diversity and opportunity in the STEM disciplines. I am grateful to the Board for being willing to facilitate this experiment at the network.

Other contributors will be NCCU RISE Program Coordinator, Kenneth Cutler, Director of NC Project SEED, and Chair of the NCCU RISE Internal Advisory Board, Dr. Faye Calhoun, former Deputy Director of the NIH's National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In future posts, we'll feature each of these program leaders.

And, in closing, here is our standard disclaimer to keep us in good stead with our affiliated institutions:

Opinions expressed here are solely those of faculty and student authors and do not in any way reflect the views of the North Carolina Central University, collaborating universities and institutes, NIGMS, or the National Institutes of Health.

Again, welcome - we look forward everyone learning about our RISE Scholars and interacting with the greater scientific community.

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