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About the Event

What are your favorite hobbies or activities you do for fun?
Traveling

Do you play any musical instruments?
Clarinet

Do you play any sports or do any athletic activities?
Indoor and Outdoor Track, Cross Country

What is your favorite non-science book, magazine, or blog?
The Catcher and the Rye

What's the most frequently played song on your mp3 player?
Pharrell-Happy

How do you describe yourself?
Very energetic, hardworking and silly

Highest degree attained
Bachelor of Science, Virginia State University (2012)

Degree currently pursuing, if any
Doctorate of Philosophy, University of Cincinnati 

Schools attended
Virginia State University
Western Washington University 
University of Cincinnati

Favorite classes/coursework in elementary school, middle school, high school, college
European History, Chemistry, Physics, 

What educational accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am especially proud of graduating from Virginia State University with my bachelors in chemistry. 

What kinds of challenges did you overcome during your education?
1. Coping with how much and how often I had to study 

2. Being a first generation PhD student

Employer
University of Cincinnati

Official title
Graduate Student 

"Layman's" title
Chemist

Years in this organization/position
1

What does your organization do?
We conduct research in various fields of chemistry. 

What is your role in the organization?
I am a graduate student researcher working towards a PhD in chemistry.

Describe your work environment
I work in two different chemistry labs. At my university I work under the direction of Dr. Laura Sagle and at the NASA Ames Research Center I work with Dr. Jessica Koehne.

What tools and/or techniques do you use in your job?
I use a spin coater, oxygen plasma etcher, e-beam depositor to prepare my samples, an SEM and AFM, Ellipsometer to characterize the surface of my substrates and a UV-Vis spectrometer.

Describe a typical day in your job
I work in the lab to prepare my samples and take UV-Vis measurements.
 
Describe an atypical (but notable) day in your job
Travelling to California to work in different labs over the summer
 
How is the work you do important to society?
I am developing biosensors that can detect toxins with greater sensitivity than what is currently on the market.

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your current role?
An accomplishment that I am most proud of is being selected as a NASA Jenkins Fellow

What projects or goals are you currently pursuing?
I am fabricating gold nanorods towards biosensing applications using nanoporous alumina templates.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
Sometimes my experiments do not go as planned so I have to either problem solve or re-design.

What is the most exciting, most amazing, or scariest thing that has happened to you during your work?
The PhD program that I am in requires its students to defend their dissertation every year so that was one of the most exciting because I get to talk about what I am interested in, yet it is scary because it determines if you can continue in the program! 

What would a teenager find interesting about what you do?
I get to work with NASA.  

What's the coolest part of your job?
I get to make things that have not been made before.

What are the downsides of your job?
It can get stressful when deadlines to complete assignments come up quickly or when the experiment does not turn out as planned.

What personal traits make you well suited for the work that you do?
Analytical, logical and creative 

What career-related awards or other forms of recognition have you received?
NASA Jenkins Fellowship
NASA Student Ambassador

Previous employers and positions that have lead to your current role
NASA Ames Research Center-Research Assistant
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center-Research Assistant

Biggest career "break" or notable moment
Being selected for a graduate program in Chemistry at UC

Proudest career accomplishment
Completing my first year of graduate school!

What were you like as a kid?
I was very energetic, silly, pretty much the same way I am now.
 
What were your favorite books/shows/movies when you were a kid?
Zoom, Salior Moon, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Goosebumps, Home Alone.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up at age 12? At age 15? At age 18?
I always wanted to become a medical doctor; specifically a reconstructive surgeon from age 12, 15 and 18.

When did you know you wanted to pursue your current career, and what drove you towards it?
I knew that I wanted to pursue a PhD in chemistry after my freshman year at VSU. My participation in an REU program at VCU drove me towards pursing a graduate degree instead of a medical one. 

What did you believe about this career before entering into it that proved to be different once you were in?
One thing that I expected after I entered this career was that my sole concentration would be focused on my work in the laboratory and that I would not be able to travel as much.  This isn’t true because not only do I get to travel I get to explain my research to people all over the world!

Who inspired you on this path?
My physical chemistry professor Dr. Victor Vilchiz.

If you weren't doing what you're doing now, what other career(s) might you have pursued?
I have great interest in the arts and social sciences so I probably would have pursued a career in either fashion, music or history.

Why did you agree to become a STEM Role Model?
Looking back at my education experience thus far, I feel fortunate to have had mentors guiding me and helping me reach my goals. The youth are vital to our community structure and I can possibly help aid their development by investing and maintaining my involvement in them.

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your career?
1. You will need to work hard.
2. Understand that with hard work, it is not going to be easy. 
3. Find a mentor that has enough experience in mentorship that can offer great guidance. 
4. Invest in yourself and what you have a passion for.

What advice would you give students in general?
Learn as much as you can from your teachers, professors and friends.

What are some interesting places you've traveled?
Anacortes, Washington; Richmond, Virginia, Vancouver, Canada; Portmore, Jamaica: Kingston, Jamaica, Brownstown, Jamaica, Toronto, Canada, New Orleans, Louisiana, San Francisco, California, Bogota, Colombia, Mexico City, Mexico

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