This spotlight will highlight the educational and professional journeys of the faculty and students.
Biomedical Research M.S. (nonthesis) Student
Sheavonnie Wright is a first-generation college student and first-year biomedical research M.S. (nonthesis) graduate student at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. Born in Mandeville, Jamaica she grew up in the Bronx, NY where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from Herbert H. Lehman College with a concentration in biochemistry and a minor in African American studies.
Originally a biology major, Wright was inspired by the research experience she received in a radiochemistry lab to change her major to chemistry. What never changed, though, was her passion to minor in African American studies. Wright was able to learn more about her culture and heritage as an Afro-Caribbean American by taking courses that discussed black families, the latinx experience, black feminism, women studies, the Cuban experience and literature of the Caribbean diaspora.
Wright was attracted to Marshall University because of the various research opportunities, programs and courses offered. However, what ultimately motivated her in committing to Marshall was the warm welcome she received from Richard Egleton, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the biomedical sciences graduate program. While in the program she has created and fostered relationships with administrators, faculty and current Ph.D. students. Once Wright completes her M.S. program, she intends to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. or doctoral degree focusing on the roles of epidemiology in cardiovascular disease in patients of color. One of her long-term personal goals is to initiate a mentorship program for Black women in STEM-related fields. She is hopeful that in leading by example she will be able to emphasize the importance of African American female representation and provide a level of comfort, safety and perseverance - echoing the words “if she can do it, despite her trials and tribulations, then so can I, despite mine.”
Brandon Henderson, Ph.D.
Coordinator of Neuroscience and Developmental Biology Research Cluster
Originally from Clayton, OH, Brandon Henderson, Ph.D., assistant professor and coordinator for the neuroscience and developmental biology research cluster, remembers being attracted to nicotine research because of his communities high smoking rates. Curious to understand why people continued to smoke despite the health issues it created, Henderson studied chemistry and pharmacology at Ohio State University and soon after received a neurobiology postdoctoral position at the California Institute of Technology.
After living in Los Angeles for many years during his postdoctoral training, Henderson began to realize the importance of being close to home and being in an environment where one can be a part of an actual community. When interviewed by Gary Rankin, Ph.D., professor and vice dean for basic sciences, Henderson recalls the warm welcome he received in each of his interviews. Shortly after accepting his position, Henderson continued to feel that warm welcome from all faculty and staff that he had initially received.
Henderson strives to continue providing a warm welcome on-campus and off to minorities and women in science. Knowing the representation of minorities and women in science is low, Henderson also places his mentoring efforts into two of his primary scientific societies, the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) and Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT). One of Henderson’s primary goals is to keep the minority and female scientists on a trajectory that facilitates their transition from grad-student, to postdoc, to academic faculty and/or industry professionals. Additionally, he hopes to continuously prove to students of color that science is a credible option.
Kristeena Wright Ph.D.
Biomedical Research Ph.D. Class of 2017
Kristeena Wright is an Application Scientist at Advanced Instruments in Norwood, MA. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering at Duke University and her doctoral degree from the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine Biomedical Research program in 2017.
Wright felt she could make a home within the program as she valued the pride faculty members took in their work and contribution to medical advancements in areas affecting the Appalachian population. While in the program, Wright took notice of the medical school and graduate program efforts when it came to recruiting and retaining students of color. She felt appreciative of the outlets and resources offered to her within the school and community. Furthermore, she felt valued and heard in the program as faculty members continuously asked for her input and advice.
Since the murder of George Floyd, she has taken the initiative to speak up in her current role. “After the murder of George Floyd, I shared with leadership that something needed to be done when it comes to diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace and was able to be a part of starting conversations that were honestly long overdue,” Wright said. She hopes that through her accomplishments she can show young black females that they are capable of anything despite inequality.