On March 28, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit my undergraduate alma mater, North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham, North Carolina, during their 2nd Annual STEM Professional Development Network Conference. Ten years after graduating from this institution, the Society of Toxicology (SOT) has granted me the opportunity to visit and teach undergraduate students from groups under-represented in science about toxicology through the Domestic ToxScholar Program. In the photo on the right, I am in the center and joined by Aloza Pamplin, Michael Anhorn, Jarrett Weathership, Amanda Ghimire, Corey White, Adeyemo Adetogun, and Dolly Rakiro.
It was a full day of events and students were excited to learn skills and tips to start their careers or further their education by attending graduate or professional school. There were approximately 105 students and 10–15 faculty members in attendance with bright smiles. I was given the tasks of presenting tips on “How to Give an Effective Research Presentation” and served on a panel for “STEM-21 Century Careers.” The first talk drew approximately ten students and one faculty member. The students were excited to learn how to present a PowerPoint presentation and a poster; none of them had presented a poster. So, they learned a few tricks to help them prepare for a couple of upcoming conferences in the fall.
Throughout the day, I was introduced to several students and mistaken for an undergraduate student many times, but I think it made a huge difference to see and chat with a young toxicologist. During the last afternoon session, the panel discussion began and it was well attended by 32 undergraduate students and 5 faculty members. I served on the panel with two other panelists, including fellow NCCU alum and SOT member, Willie McKinney.
I told them about my career path and how I stumbled into toxicological research. They learned the definition of toxicology, the importance of toxicology, and the potential opportunities for a career in toxicology. Many of the students were not familiar with the discipline. The students were able to gain two perspectives from: 1) a young toxicologist just starting her career, and 2) an established toxicologist from Dr. McKinney. After the session, several students asked questions about the opportunities and what they can do to become toxicologists.
I exchanged information with a few students to provide guidance and hope they will take on a different and exciting career path, toxicology. It was an exciting day and I cannot wait to go back to NCCU and chat with more undergraduate students. Overall, it was a wonderful opportunity to give back to the university that contributed to the toxicologist I am today, represent SOT, and inspire a new generation of rising stars.