Eight School scientists make Cell Mentor's 1,000 Inspiring Black Scientists list

Monday, January 11, 2021
By William Alexander
1000 inspiring Black scientists

Top row, left to right: Sherilynn Black, PhD, Carlene Moore, PhD, Joab Odera, PhD, and Samira Musah, PhD.
Bottom row, left to right: Letitia Jones, PhD, Kafui Dzirasa, PhD, Johnna Frierson, PhD, and Elizabeth Ramsey, PhD.

Thirteen Duke scientists, including eight members of the Duke University School of Medicine, appeared in a new list of 1,000 inspiring Black scientists in the United States. Cell Mentor, a blog and online resource for researchers, composed the list to showcase the contributions Black scientists make to the scientific community.

Duke scientists on the list included faculty and postdoctoral associates from across the School of Medicine and University, with a variety of research interests, including the molecular mechanisms behind lung cancer disparities, the development of new vaccine candidates for HIV, and examinations of how changes in the brain lead to neurological and psychiatric illnesses.

School of Medicine faculty on the list include:

  • Sherilynn Black, PhD (Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement and Assistant Professor for the Practice of Medical Education) who provides leadership in many areas of faculty advancement and leads initiatives to increase diversity among the faculty ranks and engages in social neuroscience research on the effectiveness of diversity-related interventions.
  • Kafui Dzirasa, PhD, (K. Ranga Rama Krishnan Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Neurobiology, Bioengineering, and Neurosurgery) whose interests focus on understanding how changes in the brain produce neurological and mental illness. 
  • Johnna Frierson, PhD, (Assistant Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Education in the School of Medicine) who is building and leading a new office to expand and enhance the School’s diversity inclusion for graduate students and postdoctoral appointees working in biomedical research.
  • Letitia Jones, PhD, (postdoctoral scholar within the Duke Human Vaccine Institute) whose work focuses on HIV vaccine development by mediating responses elicited by B- and T-cells.
  • Carlene Moore, PhD (Assistant Professor of Neurology in the Duke Department of Neurology), whose research focuses on the role that TRPV4 ion channels play in the conduction and perception of pain. 
  • Samira Musah, PhD, (Assistant Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering) whose research examines how molecular signals and biophysical forces can function either synergistically or independently to guide organ development and physiology, and how these processes can be therapeutically harnessed to treat human disease.
  • Joab Odera, PhD, (postdoctoral researcher in the Patierno/Freedman/George Lab of the Duke Cancer Institute) who is conducting research to study the molecular mechanisms underlying lung cancer disparities. 
  • Elizabeth Ransey, PhD, (postdoctoral research fellow) who works in the Dzirasa lab with a background in chemistry and biochemistry.  

In addition to members of the School of Medicine, Cell Mentor’s list also included five other scientists from Duke University:

  • Dawn Henderson, MEd, PhD (Program Director and Research Scholar of Research & Evaluation for the Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Center)
  • Calvin Howell, PhD (Professor of Physics)
  • Arlie Petters, PhD (Benjamin Powell Distinguished Professor of Mathematics) 
  • Gustavo Silva, PhD (Assistant Professor of Biology) 
  • Maria Tackett, PhD (Assistant Professor of Assistant Professor of the Practice in Statistical Science)