Graduate School Alums Return to Share Their Experiences in IMSD Program

By Nathan Tidwell

Danielle Graham, Ph.D., and Justin Graham, Ph.D., conducted a seminar, “Planning the Perfect Picture,” at the Biomedical Research Center II’s Rayford Auditorium. The seminar is part of a lecture series included in IMSD’s recently renewed grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

Danielle Graham, Billy Thomas, and Justin Graham.

Danielle Graham and Justin Graham with IMSD co-principal investigator Billy Thomas, M.D.

Created in 2009 through a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, IMSD’s goal is to increase the number of doctoral graduates from underrepresented groups through a wide-ranging mentoring and training program. IMSD students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and be accepted into the UAMS Graduate School’s Biomedical Informatics, Interdisciplinary Biomedical Sciences or Pharmaceutical Sciences Ph.D. programs.

“We’re trying to be as helpful as we can to the next group of IMSD students,” said Justin Graham, who was part of the initial class in 2009. “We want them to understand that if we can do it, they can do it also.”

“We want to talk about things that occur outside of the lab,” said Danielle Graham, who was in the 2011 cohort. “We feel that’s an important part of the journey.”

The Grahams, husband and wife, are professors at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. Danielle Graham is the chair and associate professor in the Department of Biological and Forensic Sciences. Justin Graham is an assistant professor in the Department of Biological and Forensic Sciences and director of the Honors Program.

The seminar focused on six points:

  • Define Your Subject and Objective
  • Frame to Add Depth and Symmetry
  • Focus
  • Mind the Background
  • Perspective and Lighting
  • Review, Refine and Seek Feedback

“The background can be your short-term and long-term goals,” said Justin Graham. “However, you want to minimize any distractions.”

“For your perspective, it’s important to remember why you’re doing this,” Danielle Graham said. “Your mission and focus may change as you go along, but if you have a good foundation and support system, you can do it.”

The Grahams also reflected on their time at UAMS.

“What sold me on UAMS was the culture,” said Danielle Graham. “I was very interested in microbiology, and the department was amazing. I felt I would get the support I needed and learn the skills to become a microbiologist.”

“I learned a lot of good things in Dr. Lee’s lab, information that I still use today in teaching my students,” Justin Graham said. “I want my students to think critically and figure things out on their own. I owe a lot of that to Dr. Lee and all the staff at UAMS.”

IMSD Students

IMSD students and faculty at the seminar.Image by Nathan Tidwell.

Chia Y. Lee, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

“I always appreciate when we can bring people who can provide students a view of what they can do,” said Antiño Allen, Ph.D., program co-principal investigator, the Graduate School’s associate dean of Pipeline and Career Development and a professor in the College of Pharmacy. “We also want to show our students that you can do impactful research at small institutions.”

“I’m really proud and excited to see them back,” said program co-principal investigator Billy Thomas, M.D., professor and neonatologist in the College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics. “We’re looking at working with Fayetteville State on various programs that will be mutually beneficial to both institutions.”

For second-year IMSD student Jaycee Hall, the seminar was helpful.

“The IMSD program is a good adjustment to graduate school,” said Hall, who completed her undergraduate work at Hendrix College. “It’s reassuring to know if you’re not sure where you want to go, there’s a lot of help here.”