Author: Kimberly Smith

Kim is a biomedical researcher turned science writer who loves creating accessible science content that encourages enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering, and math in kids and adults.

Posts by Kimberly Smith

Amie Fornah Sankoh Achieves a Scientific Dream

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A headshot of Dr. Amie Fornah Sankoh.
Credit: LinkedIn.

“I wanted to give up so many times. Although I tried to remain positive, I never thought I’d be able to finish my Ph.D. But I made it, and I’m extremely proud of myself,” says Amie Fornah Sankoh, Ph.D., a research scientist with Dow Chemical Company who received NIGMS support as a graduate student.

Human and Plant Communication

Dr. Sankoh has loved science and mathematics since she was just a child growing up in Sierra Leone. When she was 3 years old, Dr. Sankoh became deaf from a childhood disease. Math, unlike other subjects, is very visual, which played a part in her interest in it. “Before I learned American Sign Language when I was 15 years old, I could only understand one language: mathematics,” Dr. Sankoh says.

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Developing Low-Cost Lab Techniques: Q&A With Abraham Badu-Tawiah

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A headshot of Dr. Abraham Badu-Tawiah.
Credit: Ohio State University.

“I never thought I could make an impact on chemistry and students’ lives. But now, I’m the head of a lab with several Ph.D. and undergraduate students and a postdoctoral researcher; and we’re developing simple, low-cost lab techniques that can be adopted by labs across the world,” says Abraham Badu-Tawiah, Ph.D., the Robert K. Fox Professor of Chemistry at Ohio State University in Columbus. We talked with Dr. Badu-Tawiah about his career progression, research, and advice for students hoping to launch a career in science.

Q: How did you get started on the path to a career in science?

A: In Ghana, where I grew up, education works differently than in the United States. High school students are assigned subjects to study primarily based on their grades, and once assigned a subject, it’s difficult to switch. I was assigned to math, physics, and chemistry, which put me on a path toward being an engineer. I was happy to be studying science, but after the death of my brother, I wanted to study medicine more than engineering.

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What Does an Immunologist Do?

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This post is part of a miniseries on the immune system. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series that you may have missed.

Immunology is the study of the immune system, including all the cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect you from germs. A person who studies immunology is called an immunologist, and there are three types:

  • Researchers, who study the immune system in the laboratory to understand how it works or how it can go awry and find new treatments for immune system-related diseases
  • Doctors, who diagnose and care for patients with diseases related to the immune system, such as food allergies or immunodeficiency
  • Physician-scientists, who are both researchers and doctors and divide their time between the clinic and the laboratory
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Broadening Opportunities for Students in STEM at Brown University and Beyond

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A headshot of Dr. Andrew G. Campbell.
Credit: Courtesy of Brown University.

Andrew G. Campbell, Ph.D., a professor of medical science at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and previous dean of the graduate school, is passionate about researching understudied diseases and helping students reach their full potential.

Dr. Campbell’s lab has studied the single-cell organism Trypanosoma brucei (T. brucei), a parasite transmitted through the bite of the tsetse fly, which is only found in specific regions of Africa. In humans, T. brucei causes African Trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness. Symptoms of this illness include headache, weakness, tiredness, and altered sleep schedules; and if left untreated, it can be fatal. Dr. Campbell studies the function of certain enzymes found in T. brucei and other infectious agents, like hepatitis B virus and HIV, with the hope that they can serve as targets for new treatments for diseases.

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Putting West Virginia Students on the Path to Scientific Careers

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Logos of the West Virginia HSTA and WV-INBRE programs. HSTA’s logo shows a colorful icon image of the human body’s muscular system, with a state icon of West Virginia off to the left. INBRE’s logo shows a double helix overtop a state icon of West Virginia.
Credit: NIGMS.

Two NIGMS-funded programs are teaming up to shape the future of science and technology in West Virginia (WV). One engages high school students in science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine (STEM+M); introduces them to research; and provides direct access to college through tuition waivers. In the other program, undergraduate students are paired with a researcher at their institution for a paid internship—an important step toward a career in science.

The Health Sciences & Technology Academy

“We liken our students to rosebuds. As they grow, you see them blossom into self-confident leaders,” says Catherine Morton, Ed.D., director of the Health Sciences & Technology Academy (HSTA) in West Virginia. This mentoring program is supported in part by an NIGMS Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA).

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How Can the Immune System Go Awry?

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This post is part of a miniseries on the immune system. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series that you may have missed.

The immune system is designed to closely monitor the body for signs of intruders that may cause infection. But what happens if it malfunctions? Overactive and underactive immune systems can both have negative effects on your health.

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Inspiring the Next Generation of Scientists Through CityLab

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CityLab logo. The name CityLab written over an outline of a city inside an Erlenmeyer flask.
Credit: CityLab.

“Many of the students we work with don’t have access to a laboratory through their local schools. For them, CityLab is their first exposure to a laboratory environment—these are hugely important moments for these kids,” says Carl Franzblau, Ph.D., the founder of CityLab at Boston University (BU). CityLab was established more than 30 years ago as a science education outreach program for precollege students and teachers through a partnership between the Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine and the Wheelock College of Education & Human Development at BU.

“Since our first Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) grant in 1991, our mission has been to inspire students to consider careers in the biomedical sciences and broaden the opportunities that are available to them,” says Carla Romney, D.Sc., the director of research for CityLab. Continuous SEPA funding since 1991 has allowed CityLab to fulfill its mission and provide students with state-of-the-art biotechnology laboratory facilities and curricula.

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Seeking Success in Science Through NIH-Funded Training

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A headshot of Hasset Nurelegne.
Credit: Courtesy of Hasset Nurelegne.

“What’s great about a career in research is that there are so many paths you can take. I get so excited for the future when I think about all the open doors ahead of me,” says Hasset Nurelegne, a senior at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Hasset is majoring in neuroscience and behavioral biology (NBB) as well as English.

Since her first year on campus, Hasset has been an active participant in an NIGMS-funded program at Emory that aims to develop a diverse pool of scientists, the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) (which is now just for graduate students; the Maximizing Access to Research Careers [MARC] program is now available for undergraduates). The Emory IMSD has provided Hasset and other trainees with financial assistance for year-round research experiences and a support system for professional development skills and responsible conduct of research.

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What Is the Immune System?

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This post is the first in our miniseries on the immune system. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series!
A sphere with evenly spaced blue projections and a pink core.
A computer-generated image of the rotavirus, a virus that commonly causes illness in children through inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Credit: Bridget Carragher, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California.

What do antibodies, mucus, and stomach acid have in common? They’re all parts of the immune system!

The immune system is a trained army of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to block, detect, and eliminate harmful insults to your body. It can protect you from invaders like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.

Innate and Adaptive

The immune system is often thought of as two separate platoons: the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. Although these two platoons have different jobs and are made up of soldiers with different specialties, they work together to prevent infections.

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Award-Winning Safety Training Videos Showcase Inclusivity in the Lab

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Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU’s) Center on Health Disparities and safety and risk management department in Richmond teamed up to develop a series of six lab safety training videos with supplemental funding to their NIGMS-funded Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) program. The videos cover topics such as safety culture, biosafety, chemical safety, and emergency response, but what sets them apart is how they showcase diversity and inclusion in the lab.

The first video in the safety training series describes the importance of maintaining positive safety culture, which includes people’s perceptions and attitudes toward safety. This video, along with the other five, is on our NIGMS laboratory safety training and guidelines webpage.

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