Program for Excellence and Equity in Research Newsletter

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PEER Seventh

Pictured front row, from left to right: Shelby Scott, Amanda DeVolk, and Cidney Allen. Pictured back row, from left to right: Julie Rich, Christopher Mendoza, Ronita Adams, Chloe Lash, Michelle Smith, and Sarah Cooper.

Cohort Completes Successful First Year In the fall of 2015, PEER welcomed the program’s seventh cohort of stellar diverse students interested in earning Doctor of Philosophy degrees in biomedical and behavioral science disciplines. The nine new scholars in the seventh cohort are pursuing doctorates in a variety of disciplines across several colleges. Ronita Adams Ronita, a Knoxville native, is a doctoral student in the Comparative & Experimental Medicine Graduate Program in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Her research interests include statistics and data mining and their use in tracking and forecasting infectious disease spread and transmission; the use of a geographical information system (GIS) in spatial modeling of infectious diseases; and, the role of analytics in public health. Ronita earned a master’s degree in public health from Tennessee State University and a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Kentucky. Cidney Allen Cidney, originally from Detroit, Michigan, is a doctoral student in the Department of Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology. She is interested in how pathogens and infectious diseases affect the human body. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Clark Atlanta University. Sara Cooper Sara, originally from Raymond, New Hampshire, is a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Genome Science and Technology. Her research interests involve using computational biology alongside

what’s inside /

experimental techniques to answer fundamental questions about different biological systems. She earned the bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and neuroscience from the University of New England. Amanda DeVolk Amanda, originally from Dallas, Texas, is a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Genome Science and Technology. Her research interests are reproductive genetics, cell biology, and molecular genetics. She earned a bachelor’s degree in genetics from Rutgers University. Chloe Lash Chloe, originally from Plain City, Ohio, is a doctoral student in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. Her research interests are ants and seed dispersal. Specifically, she is interested in focusing her research on the chemical and microbial components of the ant-plant interaction. She earned the bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from Valparaiso University. Christopher Mendoza Christopher, originally from Chula Vista, California, is a doctoral student in the Department of Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology. His research interests are pluripotent and differentiation genes and genome editing. He earned a bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology from Humboldt State University.

Julie Rich Julie, a Knoxville native, is a doctoral student in the Department of Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology. Her research interest is how cells establish and maintain polarity. She earned the bachelor’s degree in biochemistry & cellular and molecular biology from UT Knoxville. Shelby Scott Shelby, originally from Birmingham, Alabama, is a doctoral student in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. Her research interests include agent-based modelling, GIS methodology, and disease ecology. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biomathematics from Rhodes College. Michelle Smith Michelle, originally from Columbia, South Carolina, is a doctoral student in the Department of Public Health. Her research interest is African-American youth development. She earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health master’s degree in public health with concentration in healthy policy management and a master’s degree in educational administration from UT Knoxville.

PEER is supported by the National Institutes of Health under award number R25GM086761.

pg. 2, PEER Scholar ­— pg. 3, Skills for Success ­— pg. 4, Team & Commuinty ­— pg. 5, PEERing-Out pg. 6 & 7, Carolyn Hodges ­— pg. 8 & 9, Alumni Acclaim ­— pg. 10 & 11, Honors & Awards

PEER Scholar & 2015 PhD Graduate Quentin Johnson

completed the Doctor of Philosophy degree in genome science and technology during the 2015 summer term. His dissertation title was “Elucidation of Conformational Switching Mechanisms of Sensing Proteins by Molecular Dynamics Perturbation Studies. Quentin said by far the hardest part of completing the program was the preliminary exam. “This is a proverbial trial by fire,” he said. “In hindsight it seems manageable to produce a mock grant proposal given the time allotted, but at the time it was overwhelming, considering my experience with tackling such a monstrous task.” He continued, “However, I do agree that this type of evaluation is necessary to weed out the good from the great. People need to remember that a doctoral is the highest level of academic achievement, so it is supposed to be hard to obtain.” In contrast, he said the best thing that happened to him as student was meeting his wife here in Knoxville, and having his two daughters. He said his time at UT was overall so full of “blessings” that he never felt like he was in a crisis. Quentin wishes that more people simply knew that PEER existed, especially prime candidates who are missing out on a life-changing opportunity. He also wishes that those who are aware of PEER better understood that the services provided by PEER are essential to students’ academic success. “Personally, I feel a bit of shame that programs like PEER are necessary in this day and age, since the US, as a whole and as individual citizens, has not progressed past the necessity for minority-serving programs,” he explained. With that said, he firmly believes that programs like PEER will push us forward as a country to the day when the word minority is not synonymous with a lack of success. PEER scholars are a perfect example of what underrepresented minorities can achieve when given the opportunity. Quentin gives a lot of credit to his academic support structure, which includes: Sekeenia Haynes (PEER program administrator and his mentor), Cynthia Peterson (former PI for PEER), Harry Richards (former manager of SCALE-IT), Ricky Nellas (postdoctoral fellow and his lab mentor), Tongye Shen (faculty advisor); and, his personal support structure, which includes Ester Johnson (wife), Terrence Randall (friend from PEER), and Jerreme Jackson (friend from PEER). Currently, Quentin is completing a post-doctoral fellowship with The National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Syntheses (NIMBioS). He spends the majority of his time doing research in the field of computational biochemistry. Day to day, he runs molecular dynamics simulations on proteins, analyzes data, writes journal articles, collaborates with colleagues, and prepares research presentations. He has already given a research talk at NIMBioS and will give two more in the next four months at Tennessee State University and The University of Texas at El Paso. Quentin also participates in outreach activities on and off campus, such as UT’s Come See Tennessee program for high school students, coordinating with PEER recruitment, and recruiting potential undergraduate and graduate students as well as post-doctoral fellows.

Quentin wishes that more people simply knew that PEER existed, especially prime candidates who are missing out on a life-changing opportunity.

Skills for Success According to the National Science Foundation’s 2013 Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities report, the number of doctoral degrees received by minorities has risen from 3.7 percent in 1993 to 7.8 percent in 2012. Although there has been progress since 1993, non-minority students drastically outweigh

underrepresented minority (URM) doctoral graduates. Programs such as PEER, have contributed to this increase by implementing effective recruitment and retention strategies to encourage and support URM students in their biomedical and behavioural science disciplines. In order to equip the new cohort of scholars with the skills

to navigate their doctoral program, PEER hosted its signature “Skills for Success” Orientation. Orientation was held Monday, August 10 through Tuesday, August 18. Orientation serves as a bridge program to help students transition into graduate school.

The orientation agenda included presentations to the cohort of scholars regarding the expectations and initiatives of PEER as well as training on the following topics:

Research Areas”, led by Jaye Gardner & Matt Giorgianni of the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium

• “Self-efficacy”, led by Caroline Szymeczek, President of Integrated Learning Innovations, Inc.

• “Public Speaking and Getting over Presentation Fright”, led by Cindy Raines, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, UT Haslam College of Business

• “Finding a Research Advisor”, led by Gladys Alexandre, PEER Project Investigator (PI) and Professor in Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology (BCMB), and Tessa BurchSmith, Assistant Professor in BCMB.

• “Developing A Strategic Plan For The First Eighteen Months Of Your Doctoral Program”, led by Samuel Jones, author of Just What the PhD Ordered • “Navigating the Unknown: Tools for Exploring and Understanding New

• “Endnote and Library Skills”, led by Jeanine Williamson, Librarian (subject liaison for engineering), UT Hodges Library

Faculty and Student Mentoring Workshops PEER partnered with the UT Graduate School to offer mentoring workshops for both faculty and students that were open to the entire campus community. These workshops were facilitated by Ernest Brothers, Associate Dean of the UT Graduate School, and NaShara Mitchell, Assistant Dean and Director of Preparing Future Faculty and Professionals, at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). The mentoring workshop for UT faculty, attended by twenty-three new and returning faculty, provided information on mentoring vs. advising, formal vs. informal mentoring, elements of formal mentoring systems, mentoring phases, network mentoring, and cross-cultural mentoring. The student mentoring workshop, attended by twenty-two UT graduate students, informed students of the importance of having a mentor, how to find a mentor, and how to develop that relationship for your benefit. After the workshop, the facilitators offered numerous digital resources such as a mentoring handbook to assist both faculty and students on their mentor/mentee journey.


Team and and Team Community Community Building Building In addition to the professional development training offered during orientation, students were able to participate in team and community building activities. An important aspect of PEER is to build a sense of community among the cohorts and mentors. Underrepresented cultures share meals and spend time talking with one another in order to bring the community closer together. The team-building ropes course at Ijams Nature Park helped build trust and leadership among members of the new cohort. There was also fellowship among the PEER students, staff, mentors, and leadership team during outings and dinner. At the close of the first day of orientation, PEER hosted dinner at Calhoun’s on the River with PEER scholars and the PEER leadership and mentoring teams. The PEER Annual Picnic was held on Saturday, August 15, at Melton Hill Park. During the dinner and picnic, all PEER scholars, alumni, leadership and mentoring team members, and staff were invited to partake in food, fun, fellowship and games.

PEERing-Out: STEM Outreach SHaring ADventures in Engineering and Science (SHADES) PEER scholars and mentors are a resource to the community as they serve as role models for future STEM biomedical and behavioral scientists. Second year PEER scholars Jordan Bush, Alfredo Blakeley-Ruiz, Dominique Hatton, and Leondra Lawson, as well as PEER mentor Suzanne Lenhart, assisted with the annual NIMBioS SHaring ADventures in Engineering and Science (SHADES) event on October 31, 2015 on the UT campus. SHADES, a one- day interactive workshop for sixth and seventh grade girls in the greater Knoxville area, was filled with hands-on activities in life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics, and computer science. The SHADES participants also explored the range from highly technical engineering to everyday engineering applications. Suzanne Lenhart led the mathematics activities which focused on using probability to understand biodiversity. Using some samples representing different insect species, students calculated Simpson’s Index of Biodiversity. Year two PEER scholars led the life sciences activity where participants

made wearable DNA necklaces. Students isolated their own human genomic DNA and created wearable DNA necklaces. This exciting event introduced science and engineering concepts and principles to girls from the greater Knoxville area. PEER scholars used this outreach model to offer an outreach activity at Greenback Elementary School.

Basso Travels to Trinidad to Give STEM Talks Peer scholar, Jonelle Basso, had the opportunity to share her career interests and experience with a group of secondary school and undergraduate students during the fall semester 2015. She hosted a microbiology seminar at the ASJA Girls Secondary School in San Fernando, Trinidad on October 27, 2015, involving approximately forty students in grades seven, eight, eleven, and twelve. On October 28, 2015, Jonelle gave presentations to undergraduates at both the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus at St. Vincent and the UWI Grenadines and the St. Augustine campus in Trinidad and Tobago. Her career talks focused on microbiology and environmental and marine science drawing on research from the Gulf of Mexico. One attendee remarked “the adventurous part of the job peaked my interest and I am very excited about working with the environment”. The pictures of cruises and investigation of glow-in-thedark organisms allowed the attendees to see Jonelle’s passion for her research and dedication to her fieldwork.

The illustrations gave participants an opportunity to understand that the job of a scientist entails not only working in a research laboratory, but also engaging in field work. While visiting these schools, Jonelle was also able to talk with a colleague and her undergraduate mentee about avenues to pursue science. These career talks showed the students that life can carry you in different directions, but passion and persistence will lead to ultimate success. To learn more about Jonelle, check out her blog: 5 / PEER REVIEW

Carolyn Hodges

Reflects on Her Life and Career Carolyn Hodges, former vice provost and dean of the UT Graduate School, and professor of German, also serves as co-principal investigator (PI) of PEER. Hodges has had an impressive career here at UT Knoxville. As dean of UT Graduate School, she had the opportunity to work with deans across the country to devise strategies for broadening participation in graduate education and to engage with them in developing best practices in graduate education. She led the Top 25 Task Force on Graduate Education from 2010-1015, and expanded UT’s visibility though activities in professional organizations focused on graduate education. We interviewed Carolyn Hodges to learn more about her experiences during her tenure here at the university.

PEER: How did your

academic career begin? Hodges: I was born in Roebling, New Jersey, a small town about ten miles south of the state capital, Trenton. I earned a bachelor’s degree in French (minor German and high school teaching certification) from Arcadia University and went on to the University of Chicago, where I received a master’s degree and a doctorate in Germanic languages and literatures with a focus on 19th and 20th century German literature. I have also studied Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Italian, and a bit of Mandarin Chinese. While in graduate school I met and married John O. Hodges, who earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in religion and literature from the University of Chicago Divinity School. PEER: What brought you to UT? Hodges: My husband and I came to UT in 1982 when he was recruited by the Department of Religious Studies. At the same time, I applied for and was hired as a faculty member in what was then the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages, which later merged with Romance Languages to become Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures. The opportunity for the two of us to join the campus was part of a vigorous attempt by the university to increase faculty and student diversity under the auspices of the Geier federal lawsuit, which mandated that the State of

Tennessee build and maintain a single, rather than dual, system of public higher education that offered equal access to all and would eliminate any remaining evidence of segregation. Over the course of a few years the numbers of faculty, staff, and students of color increased substantially. John retired from teaching in the UT Department of Religious Studies in December 2010. PEER: What are your

research interests?

Hodges: My teaching and research reflects a broad interest in interdisciplinary studies and a global approach to literary studies with emphasis in three major areas: multicultural perspectives in modern German literature, comparative literature, and multicultural education. My published books and articles focus on comparisons of AfricanAmerican, Afro-German, and German voices in literature and on theoretical and pedagogical approaches to multicultural education. I have collaborated with university graduate programs to establish partnerships with universities in France, Italy, and China, and was a two-week guest administrator in 2011 at Wuhan University in China.

PEER: What sparked your interest

in becoming dean of the graduate school? How was the change from faculty to dean?

Hodges: In 2005 when I attended the Bryn Mawr Institute for Women in Higher Education Administration, one assignment required participants to think about what our professional trajectory might be in the coming years. I began considering the possibility of seeking a college dean position, but in 2006, when Bob Holub, then provost, decided to reinstate the Graduate School, I decided it was a position that suited my interests and to which I could readily apply the administrative skills I had gained. I liked the idea of being able to work with faculty (graduate directors, the Graduate Council, graduate associate deans) and a broad variety of constituents across campus to have an impact on the academic and professional preparation of graduate students. My instincts were correct, because it was the most rewarding of the several administrative leadership positions I have held. PEER: What were some key

accomplishments as dean of the UT Graduate School? What ideas were you able to implement? Hodges: Rebuilding and restructuring of the Graduate School and enhancing the profile of graduate education at UT. In 2001, the Graduate School had been dismantled and operations


Joined UT as Assistant Professor


Director, Summer Instutute on Multicultural Education


Associate Dean for Academic Personnel, College of Arts & Sciences

2004 - 2006

1988 Tenured and promoted to Associate Professor

1995 Full Professor, Department of Modern Foreign Languages & Literatures

were managed from a small Office of Graduate Studies, while admissions functions were located in Enrollment Services in combination with Undergraduate Admissions. The 2006 mandate for re-instatement of the Graduate School was enacted by Provost Holub with a vision toward enhancing the profile and effectiveness of graduate education that was in keeping with UT’s identification as a public research intensive institution. Establishment of the Office of Graduate Training and Mentorship In 2008, UT applied for and obtained a prestigious training grant, the Program for Equity and Excellence in Research (PEER) which helped direct our focus on fostering inclusive excellence in graduate education, on strengthening departmental recruitment efforts, and on stressing strategies in mentoring and professional development to bolster retention. Many PEER program elements (e. g., speakers, and workshops) have been extended to all graduate students. Working directly with graduate students. I’ve particularly enjoyed working with groups of graduate students (e.g., Graduate Student Senate, National Science Foundation (NSF) Fellows) as well as individual undergraduate students preparing for graduate school (e.g., Educational Advancement Program, TLSAMP, recruitment efforts outside of UT).

1999 Head, Department of Modern Foreign Languages & Literatures

PEER: What have you found

most rewarding while working with PEER? Hodges: What I have found most rewarding is helping to mentor highly talented underrepresented students in STEM who receive doctorates and go on to make outstanding contributions. I’ve also enjoyed learning about developments in STEM education and research that will have a profound effect on the future of our state, nation, and world. I have enjoyed as well the opportunity to collaborate with dedicated, outstanding faculty and staff at UT and beyond who are deeply committed to broadening participation in graduate education. PEER: Do you feel that the campus

climate has improved, experienced setbacks, or remained the same since you first came to UT?

Hodges: This is a complicated question. In terms of climate, I think that current undergraduate and graduate student activism has energized the campus and therefore contributed positively to the climate at a time when it is very much needed because of external pressures that question commitment and challenge efforts to build and sustain inclusive excellence. The Faculty Senate and faculty in general have supported the efforts of the students, and I am heartened by that. The crucial question is how their efforts will be sustained and reap benefits that will support a climate of inclusive excellence, and attract resources to recruit and retain

2007 - 2015



Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School

Professor of German

a diverse population of outstanding students, faculty, and staff who reflect the goal of inclusive excellence and the rapidly shifting demographics of our country. PEER: What can we expect to see

from you in this new chapter of your career and life?

Hodges: I will engage in continued involvement with students – undergraduate and graduate – to provide intense mentoring and professional development on a more individual level. I am committed to ongoing involvement with PEER as long as the grant is supported with federal funding; my ultimate wish would be to see the program institutionalized after funding has come to an end. I see PEER as one of the premier training grants in this country with a framework that could benefit many graduate programs on our campus. Given resources to make it permanent, the program could serve as a model for other institutions. I look forward to continuing to serve my colleagues on campus and nationally as a resource to assist with broadening participation in graduate education.

For full article, visit


Alumni Acclaim Lenora Pluchino (’14), PEER Cohort One

Lenora Pluchino, a 2014 graduate from the Genome Science and Technology program and PEER scholar, has been working as a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Biomedical and Diagnostic Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine at UT Knoxville. During her doctoral studies, she examined how cancer begins (carcinogenesis) and also how to prevent it (chemoprevention) through dietary agents. Although she is working in the same lab as she did as a doctoral student and her research topic is similar, her post-doctoral research has taken a different direction. Currently, she is studying different drugs and how they can act together to kill cancer cells in breast and bladder cancer. Specifically, elucidating “the roles of drug-induced autophagy, DNA oxidation, and ROS-mediated apoptosis in breast and bladder cancer cell death induced by chemotherapeutic agents.” Although Lenora wasn’t sure what she wanted to pursue beyond the undergraduate degree, once in graduate school she did several rotations in different areas and became interested in biomedical sciences. While transitioning into her doctoral program, she was challenged with learning different research and experimental techniques.

PEER really kept her focused on the bigger picture. “When you’re getting more and more involved with your research, you tend to get more and more specialized, which is good, but you can’t lose focus of the bigger picture. The bigger broader picture of how your research and what you’re doing fits into the broader aspect of science. PEER always kept that focused for me,” she said. “Within PEER, there are all different kinds of people, mentors in different departments, interdisciplinary research, and you learn things outside of your specific field. You wouldn’t necessarily be able to get those things from your PI or your advisor. PEER offers an opportunity to learn from other people.” One of the most rewarding facets of her research is publishing papers about new types of cancer treatments that are better than older methods. Lenora feels she is contributing to the greater knowledge of cancer research by providing findings that could be translated into new therapies to impact future patients. After her postdoctoral fellowship, Lenora is interested in continuing work with diseases, how they occur and how to treat and prevent them. She hopes to work in industry as a scientist in the biomedical field.

When asked about the impact of PEER during her doctoral study, Lenora said

Lenora’s top three tips for future doctoral students and PEER Scholars are:

• Read a lot, even outside of the classroom—particularly published papers and scholarly journals. You need to know more about your field than you think. For example, in cancer research, you cannot focus only on cancer, because there are so many other things involved such as immunology, metabolism, etc. Don’t limit yourself to what is taught in the classroom. Go with what you are interested in and always teach yourself. • Start early, whether it is a new project or an experiment for the day. A lot of times things take longer than you expect and you don’t want to get discouraged or frustrated. If you start early, you have enough time to correct yourself and get the most out of what you’re doing. • Take advantage of different seminars, workshops, and teaching classes around campus. You never know what skills you will need down the line. Don’t limit yourself to your building or department. Try to see what opportunities are available across campus.

Terence Randall (’14), PEER Cohort Two

Terence Randall, a fall 2014 graduate of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department and PEER scholar, currently works as an integrated circuit designer for Cadence Design Systems in Cary, North Carolina. Although his doctoral research concentration was low power biomedical integrated circuits, his experience as a PEER scholar and doctoral student taught him that marketable skills can easily be manipulated into what he needs for his current position working with high speed data transfer. When starting his position, there were similarities between his doctoral research and his new position, but there were certain nuances between low circuit design and high circuit design that he had to learn. Terence acknowledged that the whole premise of a earning of Doctor of Philosophy degree is to utilize what has been done to find an answer to what has never been done before. He said in his current position he has had to find the similarities in things that he knew, then apply that to what he didn’t know.

with his research advisor he was able to obtain his current position. Also, the selfefficacy workshop built skills so that in the challenges of finding a job, he was able to stay self-motivated. The PEER model incorporates PEER orientation, discourse meetings, mentoring, and professional development workshops that transform what was once named an untapped reservoir of talent into a network of STEM professionals well-trained in their scientific field of study. Terence notes that PEER orientation was not only useful to gain skills to become a successful doctoral student, but also to become well acquainted with members of his PEER cohort. “Building friendships with graduate school peers while not worried about classes and research was invaluable,” he explained. “Most students were able to cultivate at least one good friend from their cohort. It’s always good to have people on your level— friends who relate to your struggle.”

“It’s also important to ask people who already know so you don’t waste time,” Terence said. “I’m a firm believer in utilizing your network.” Terence recalls how PEER workshops on self-efficacy and networking became useful during his job search. Through networking

Terence’s top three tips for future doctoral students and PEER Scholars are:

• Don’t let the doctoral program consume you. Find time to do what you enjoy. If not, the graduate school experience will become too much for you, and that will be an excuse to give up. • Network! Find out who can help you get your foot in the door. Have a network of people to help you find a job. Look within your network to identify people who might have contacts you can tap. Start looking for a job early (at least a year before you graduate). The last six months of your doctoral program will be hectic. • Find a good advisor. This will cause you less stress in the future. In choosing your advisor, do your research and talk to past students.


Honors and Awards

NIH Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity (IMSD) programs, such as PEER, are successfully diversifying graduate programs across the nation. PEER’s efforts contribute to the University of Tennessee’s Vol Vision by increasing the number of underrepresented minorities entering UT as doctoral students, increasing financial support, and offering services that promote student engagement and success. In addition to funding through PEER and their departments, PEER scholars are encouraged to submit proposals to secure additional support for their research.

Quentin Johnson, 2015 graduate in Genome Science and Technology and Cohort Two PEER Scholar was the recipient of two awards. Quentin received the Science Alliance Graduate Award sponsored by the UT Division of Biology. He was also awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS).

Cohort Six PEER scholar Jordan Bush, a second year doctoral student in ecology and evolutionary biology, was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. This prestigious award includes a three-year stipend of $34,000 plus tuition. Cohort Seven PEER scholars Sarah Cooper and Chloe Lash received honorable mention for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

CHANCELLOR’S HONORS BANQUET HONOREES Each year Chancellor Jimmy Cheek honors the accomplishments of campus faculty, staff, and students at the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet. Sekeenia Haynes, PEER program administrator, and Ernest Brothers, associate dean of the UT Graduate School and co-PI for PEER, were honored at this year’s banquet held on April 19, 2016. Sekeenia Haynes received the 2016 Excellence in Advising Award. Her longstanding commitment to mentoring graduate students earned her this award bestowed by the Office of the Chancellor and the Teaching Council of the Faculty Senate to honor outstanding work in advising. In the words of her nominator: “Sekeenia’s ultimate goal is to empower students and encourage them to pursue socially meaningful careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She always has an open door for her students to share both their struggles and successes. Haynes not only advises her students, but also serves as a mentor to assist in their graduate journey.” Ernest Brothers received the 2016 Hardy Liston Jr. Symbol of Hope Award in recognition of his commitment to diversity and passion for recruiting, retaining, and graduating underrepresented students with advanced degrees in STEM fields. Ernest, who also serves as director of the UT Office of Graduate Training and Mentorship, contributes greatly to PEER, and the UT campus, by offering the “Best Practices in Teaching” program to graduate students on campus. Each year, this office also collaborates with PEER to host the “Effective College Teaching Workshop” and the “Plan It, Own It, Work It Workshop”, among others.


Pictured left to right: Lindsey O’Neal (Third place), Ann Wells (First place), and Joanna Cooper (Second place)

On a campus focused on undergraduate development, PEER provides much needed training and professional development to the graduate student population. The STEM Professional and Career Symposium held on April 16, 2016 offered doctoral students an opportunity to learn about skills needed to be more competitive in today’s job market. Earlier in April, Inside Higher Ed ( published an article entitled “The Shrinking Ph.D. Job Market” which shows that as the number of new Doctor of Philosophy degree recipients rises, the number of graduates with job or post-doctoral commitments is dropping. This observation suggests an immediate need to empower doctoral students with the transferrable skills to be competitive in today’s workforce. The need for the symposium was apparent when the symposium registration far exceeded the initial fifty seats that were available within the first few days of registration.

SECOND ANNUAL CYNTHIA B. PETERSON POSTER COMPETITION The Second Annual Cynthia B. Peterson Poster Competition was held on March 4, 2016 during the Genome Science and Technology (GST) and Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology (BCMB) retreat. The retreat, a partnership with the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), is held annually as a visitation weekend for each department to interview potential GST and BCMB doctoral students for the upcoming year. In 2014, PEER joined the retreat to host the poster exhibition and in 2015, PEER incorporated a judging and awards element to the poster exhibition to launch the First Annual Cynthia B. Peterson Poster Competition. The poster competition honors Cynthia Peterson served as professor and department head in BCMB and was the initial principal investigator for PEER. There were a total of fifty-two posters in the 2016 competition, representing eight different departments on campus. The judging panel of thirty-four judges was composed of UT/ORNL faculty, researchers, and postdoctoral fellows. The 2016 competition winners were: First place – Ann Wells (Genome Science and Technology, Advisor: Bill Barrington); Second place – Joanna Cooper (Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology, Advisor: Rebecca Prosser); and Third place – Lindsey O’Neal (Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology, Advisor: Gladys Alexandre). Lindsey, a PEER scholar and third year BCMB doctoral student, said she enjoyed the poster competition. “It [the competition] allowed all of us to get together in a casual setting and catch up on research and exchange ideas,” she said. The poster exhibition and competition was a good opportunity to present and field questions about our research with less pressure than a formal presentation. The poster exhibition is also a great way for departments to interview prospective graduate students and to see the diversity of the science and people at UT.”

The symposium kicked off with a plenary keynote speaker, Fatimah Williams Castro, founder of Beyond the Tenure Track – a career strategy and professional development consulting firm. Williams Castro also led a networking workshop entitled Beyond the Elevator Pitch: Effectively Communicate Your Research and Your Why. Symposium participants had the opportunity to practice their networking skills during lunch which was hosted by the UT Graduate School. There was also a curriculum vitae (CV) and resume building information session facilitated by Kertesha Riley, STEM Careers Consultant with the UT Center for Career Development and Emilie Aslinger, graduate assistant affiliated with the center. In addition to the workshop and session speakers, the symposium hosted twelve panelists to answer questions during the academic and non-academic panel sessions. Non-academic panelists included professionals from the Cargill Corporation, CRDF Global, government sector, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Tennessee Valley Authority. Academic panelists included faculty from Florida A&M University, Maryville College, North Carolina A&T State University, and UT Knoxville. A post-doctoral fellow from Louisiana State University also contributed to the panel. This interaction with professionals in the field sparked introspection among participants to consider how they want to present themselves and what they really want from a career. 11 / PEER REVIEW

Program for Excellence & Equity in Research M407 Walter Life Sciences Building 1414 Cumberland Avenue Knoxville, TN 37996-0840

CONNECT WITH US! @UTKPEER The University of Tennessee is an EEO/AA/Title VI/Title IX/Section 504/ADA/ADEA institution in the provision of its education and employment programs and services. All qualified applicants will receive equal consideration for employment without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical or mental disability, or covered veteran status. A project of PEER with assistance from the Office of Communications in the UT College of Arts and Sciences. R01-281-4121 Job 16-077

Gladys Alexandre, Professor and Principal Investigator Sekeenia Haynes, Program Administrator Erica Echols, Recruitment & Communications Specialist 865-974-4488 •

PEER, an IMSD (Initiative for Maximizing Student Development) program, is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). PEER is the only graduate training program at UT Knoxville focused entirely on promoting the recruitment, retention, and graduation of students from underrepresented groups earning doctoral degrees in biomedical and behavioral science. A competitive program of excellence, PEER works to achieve these ambitious goals by providing personalized mentoring, and promoting the development of professional and personal skills needed for completion of a doctoral degree and a successful career in biomedical and behavioral science.

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