Student Accomplishments

Major Accomplishments

  • Since 2007, the Step-Up Program has trained more than 125 underrepresented undergraduate students (at VCU and other institutions)
  • Since 2008, HERO has trained 72 underrepresented students
  • Since 2010, MARC has trained 11 underrepresented undergraduate students
  • Since 2010, IMSD has trained 23 undergraduate students and six underrepresented graduate students
  • Since 2010, PREP has trained 17 underrepresented post-baccalaureate students
  • Since 2010, IRACDA has trained 8 post-doctoral fellows


  • Nana Afia Twumasi-Ankrah, IMSD Undergraduate scholar, was named a 2020 Goldwater Scholar.
  • Nancy Sey, IMSD Undergraduate Affiliate, was awarded a 2020 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. 
  • Nisan Hubbard received the AACR-Thomas J. Bardos Science Education Award
  • Nisan Hubbard co-authored two peer-reviewed research manuscripts (Cancer Biology and TherapyCancer Research)
  • Kalyann Kauv won the Best Presentation award at the 2011 Biochemistry 9th Undergraduate Research Symposium
  • Kaylann Kauv received Travel Awards to the ASBMB 2011 annual meeting
  • Tenchee D. Lama Tamang and Nisan Hubbard are co-authors, along with Drs. Golding and Barbour, on a vignette article that was published in the Fall 2012 issue of CURQ on the Web (Council on Undergraduate Research).
  • Tenchee D. Lama Tamang won the Best Poster Award at the 2011 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students
  • Kierra Cooke won the prestigious Siemens-ASCP Scholarship for outstanding students in clinical laboratory sciences
  • Nisan Hubbard received the Outstanding Senior in Cellular and Molecular Biology Award
  • Den Kppenhaver received the Best Oral Presentation Award at the 2012 ABRCMS conference in San Jose, CA
  • Jasmine Allen won the R01 Diversity Supplement
  • Jahangir Syed won the Outstanding Senior in Cellular and Molecular Biology Award in 2013
  • Edris Rivera attended the University of Iowa Summer NSF REU
  • Brandon Admas attended the University of Minnesota NSF REU in Chemistry
  • Hiyab Yohannes attended the University of Iowa summer MSTP training program
  • Hiyab Yohannes was selected for Oral Presentation at the Society for Neuroscience Annual meeting
  • Brittany Martinez won first place in the Undergraduate poster division at the 2014 VCU School of Engineering 1st Annual Poster Symposium
  • Hiyab Yohannes and Makeda Austin were awarded the VCU Black History in the Making Award
  • Makeda Austin was the 2014 HHMI EXROP recipient placed with Dr. Michael Rosbash at Brandeis University
  • Michael kiflezghi attended the University of Oregon Summer Research Program in 2014
  • Danice Alston attended the University of Michigan Summer Research Program in 2014
  • Makeda Austin won the award for the Best Poster at the ASBMB-UAN
  • Brittany Martinez won the Poster Presentation at the Biomedical Engineering Society Annual meeting in San Antonia, TX
  • Makeda Austin won the awards for Best Poster and Travel at ASBMB in Boston
  • Carine Binyam, Brian Joseph, and Samya Dyer received the Black History in the Making award in April of 2015
  • Brittany Martinez won Best Senior Design Project for the VCU School of Engineering
  • Makeda Austin was named Oustanding Senior in Cellular and Molecular Biology
  • Virgie Fields was awarded the CDC/CSTE Applied Epidemiology Fellowship, the Student Recognition Award at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the M.S. in Public Health from Havard University
  • Edris Rivera was the 2014 HHMI EXROP recipient placed with Dr. Lu Yi at the University of Illinois
  • Liam Lewis received the award for Best Poster at the MAPRS conference at NC State
  • Sarah Izabel and Lizette Carrasco were the 2016 HHMI (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) EXROP (Exceptional Research Opportunities Program) recipients for summer research.

New Positions

  • Nisan Hubbard has accepted a Ph.D. position at Northwestern University
  • Regina Oyesanya has accepted a tenure track faculty position at Norfolk State University
  • Nick Pullen has accepted a tenure track faculty position at William Woods University
  • Virgie Fields has been accepted in the Ph.D. program in Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Other Accomplishments

Congratulations to Dr. Salma Omer for successfully defending her PhD. Salma is an IMSD alumna who graduated VCU with a bachelor's in Chemistry in 2015. She did her PhD in Neuroscience at Vanderbilt University. 

Congratulations to Brittany Martinez, IMSD Alum, for being awarded an F31 Diversity Fellowship from NIH!

MARC and IMSD scholars have united with other VCU undergraduates to form a VCU Student Research Organization (VCU SRO) to promote undergraduate research and provide networking and career development opportunities to undergraduate researchers.

Congratulations to Michael Kiflezghi and Mariam Sankoh who won an Honorable Mention for their presentation at the 5th annual Science Education Alliance - Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) symposium. The goal of the alliance is to distribute the work of discovering, isolating, purifying, characterizing, sequencing, and annotating the genomes of novel bacteriophage among high school and college students. Students in the Alliance have isolated over 3500 bacteriophages, of which 513 have been sequenced and 274 have been uploaded to GenBank. In the words of Mr. Kiflezghi, “Expanding the number of available genomes allows for more meaningful bioinformatic analyses to be carried out so that we might better understand how these micro machines work.”

Ms. Sankoh and Mr. Kiflezghi discussed the following projects that were completed by themselves or their classmates: 

  • Are DD-carboxypeptidase genes in phages related to bacterial beta-lactamases?. The gene's product contains domains also found in bacterial beta-lactamases. Bioinformatic analyses were used to determine whether these beta-lactamase domains allowed the gene product to function as a beta-lactamase. Bioinformatic analysis showed that the viral protein sequence lacked 2 of 3 motifs required for beta-lactamase function
  • Does homology of attP/attB sequences reflect host range? It was found that homology between these regions is not a good predictor.
  • The function of repressor proteins and repressor protein binding sites in a specific grouping of bacteriophages. I'd be happy to discuss this in person
  • Can capsid protein sequences be used to explore structural relationships? Furthermore, can these structural relationships tell us anything about the relatedness of the viruses? 

This research was performed as part of VCU Phage Lab (BFNO 251/252) run by Dr. Allison Johnson.

Congratulations to Brian Joseph and Hiyab Yohannes!

Brian’s abstract was chosen for a poster presentation and Hiyab will give a talk at the 2013 Society for Neurosciences meeting in November in San Diego, Ca.

Brian has been selected to participate in the Healthy People Penn State Conference.
Way to Go, Brian!

Congratulations to Makeda Austin for being invited to participate in the prestigious Healthy People Penn State Conference.

Congratulations to Nathalie Spita on publication of her paper in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

Congratulations to Michael Kiflezghi for becoming a semi-finalist for the 2016 - 2017 Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Michael's application is sponsored by Dame Linda Partridge, Ph.D. at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne, Germany. Michael is a senior double majoring in Bioinformatics and Information Systems. He is an IMSD scholar and works in the laboratory of Dr. Maria Rivera in the Department of Biology.