BUILD Scholars Present Their Research at the 2021 DPC Virtual Research Symposium

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When the pandemic forced universities to shift their lessons online, research students lost the opportunity to present their work at in-person conferences.

In an effort to fill this void, the Diversity Program Consortium’s Coordination and Evaluation Center hosted the 2021 DPC Virtual Research Symposium (VRS) from March 29 to April 2.

During the weeklong virtual conference, 19 scholars from sites across the consortium showed the results of their research through a virtual gallery, poster presentations, and live oral sessions.

“The research symposium provides a space to recognize the value of student learning and contributions in the context of consortium-wide collaboration. We do celebrate that,” said  Cynthia Joseph, Ed.D., director of the CEC’s communication team.

A few years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine what 2020 would bring, and the science community certainly experienced unimaginable situations related to health disparities and racial inequities, said Alison Gammie, Ph.D., director of the Division of Training, Workforce Development and Diversity at National Institute of General Medical Sciences, NIH, and the DPC program lead, in her opening remarks for the Virtual Research Symposium

But on the other hand, she said,  it was “truly positive” to be part of the biomedical community as vaccines were developed, tested and deployed worldwide.

These events have underscored the importance of the DPC and its mission to confront barriers to enhancing diversity and equity in the biomedical research workforce.

“We have to do everything we can to support and train the next generation of scientists and ensure they come from a diversity of backgrounds to bring their talents and experiences to solving complex problems in medicine, including those that have to do with health disparities,” Gammie said.

She added that the dedication, compassion and resiliency of the DPC community has been inspirational as budding scientists across the consortium have pushed ahead in their research.

Scholars presented projects that spanned a variety of topics such as cancer research, COVID-19’s impact on the homeless community, water security, and fungi communities in permafrost.

Craig Chythlook, a business major with a minor in rural development at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and a member of the BLaST program, shared his research on water security and subsistence in rural Alaska. Chythlook said everyone participating in the symposium was receptive to his work.

Craig Chythlook









“It felt like a very open space to share and there wasn’t a whole bunch of pressure or that feeling of a rough, rigid environment,” Chythlook said. “I’m used to making sales pitches to my classmates for stock investments and being able to present my research on something that is more of a personal interest for me felt great, especially because everyone who participated seemed open to hearing what I had to say.”

Other presenters included Royce Hooks and Degrick Cheatham, who gave their findings on the evaluation of the toxicology of a new ceramide drug aimed at reducing the growth of or killing cancer cells. Both are students in Project PATHWAYS at Xavier University of Louisiana.

Hooks said his favorite part of the presentation was being able to share positive results for the drug they tested.

“As someone with family members who have cancer, it feels really good to make progress in making cancer non-life-threatening or at least give people with cancer a better quality of life,” he said. “And you never know, this drug could go on to really change the world. That’s such an exciting thought.”

Royce Hooks