1. Tell us a little more about what you’re studying at the moment and/or what your research focuses on.
The overall objective of my research is to better understand how maternal health affects fetal health. I am currently focusing on understanding the effects of gestational diabetes on placental epigenetics. We believe that maternal metabolic health, like gestational diabetes, can affect fetal health through its effects on the placenta. The Folami Ideraabdullah lab focuses on epigenetic mechanisms, so I study this issue by looking to better understand if epigenetics is a possible mechanism by which gestational diabetes can cause changes in placental and fetal health.
2. What are your general career interests or professional goals after graduate school?
Currently, I am interested in careers in science policy or science communication in either a governmental or non-profit setting. This may likely change as I continue with my PhD and I find out about more opportunities, which I am excited about. Generally, my professional goals always remain to continue my training as an interdisciplinary researcher and scholar. So I hope that in the future I can continue to take advantage of opportunities that introduce me to disciplines that I am not yet familiar with and expand my skillset and perspectives.
3. How has participating in the Graduate School’s professional development programs and offerings benefited your professional development? Is there a particular program or resource that has helped you the most or that you found to be especially valuable?
I have mainly taken advantage of the Graduate School’s Leadership Development Scholars Program. I appreciated this resource for I am more of an experiential learner and I wanted the opportunity to take an idea and turn it into an actual program. Through the LDSP I was able to learn more about program development and evaluation. And most importantly, program execution. These skills have proved invaluable and have helped to distinguish myself from some of my peers. It has particularly helped me with my self-confidence in my leadership skills and ability to execute ideas.
4. Are there other steps you are taking now as a graduate student to prepare yourself for the job market/your industry?
The main steps I have taken as a graduate student to prepare myself has been to develop skills outside of the lab environment that I have felt would be pertinent to the job market. This has included being involved with science writing (SWAC). I even started a science blog with my colleague Kaylee Helfrich, called NutriBites. Additionally, I have sought to become more involved with the development of initiatives and programs within GPSF and my own department. I think the main skill I have been most interested in developing is how to be a graduate student advocate and, actually, an advocate in general. I have appreciated the many chances I have had on this campus to be part of advisory boards or candidate selections. My next steps are to become more familiar with some of the industries I am interested in and I am planning on doing informational interviews to learn more about those.
5. What is something you wish you had known about professional development in your first year of graduate school?
I think the main thing would have been to take advantage of the various opportunities available on campus and to learn about the various resources available as well. UNC has a lot of things going on and it can be overwhelming at first to figure out what is pertinent to you. However, ultimately you won’t know until you try things out. So I would have encouraged myself my first year to try more things out to get a better idea of next steps and what it is that interests me the most.
6. Do you have any professional development or career planning advice to offer your fellow graduate students?
I would mainly advise making sure you keep track of opportunities. You may see various things sent out to you via listservs that may not apply to you right now but they may become applicable to you in the future. Find a way to save them and keep track of them. I promise you will thank yourself later. I personally recommend OneNote for this as it’s been helpful for me.