January 17, 2024

Abigail Arnold | Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

DEIS Scholarship, funded in part by the A. Philip Randolph Fellowship, supports students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, including first-generation college students, as well as students who have a history of activism in support of underrepresented communities. It provides support for PhD students, as well as students in the Biotechnology master’s program.

This year is the first year that PhD students have participated in the DEIS scholars program. Below, we profile our four first-year PhDs (from Biochemistry and Biophysics, English, History, and Psychology), as well as our two second-year Biotechnology master’s students.

Lianne Gallant
Lianne Gallant

Lianne (she/her) is a first-year PhD student in History.

Research Focus: I focus on transracial adoption from China to the U.S. during the One Child Policy.

Why Brandeis?: I was attracted to the campus-wide commitment to social justice.

Something I've enjoyed: The small research university environment allows for (and sometimes necessitates) community-building across disciplines.

Something that surprised me: The attention and care given to all students, regardless of undergraduate or graduate status.

Post-graduation plans: I would love to be a professor or work in DEI in Higher Education.

A beaker holding purple liquid
Nicholas Greco

Nicholas is a second-year master's student in the dual Professional Science Master’s Degree in Biotechnology and  MBA with a concentration in Healthcare Management.

What you’re focusing on in your research: I am not currently doing research at Brandeis as it is not required by my program, but my research interests currently lie at the intersection of biotechnology, regulatory structures, and healthcare in chronic illness management for marginalized communities in the United States and Latin America.

What attracted you to Brandeis: I came to Brandeis nearly 6 years ago as an undergraduate majoring in Biochemistry, initially drawn to the institution on account of its social impact legacy and prominent reputation as an R1 Research Institution. The Dual MS/MBA was a perfect opportunity to continue learning in the top-tier academic environment at Brandeis and leverage my knowledge of the institution to the benefit of the graduate community. Additionally I was compelled by the opportunity to learn from Dr. Neil Simister, Program Director, who has been an incredible mentor and influence.

Something you’ve enjoyed here so far: I am profoundly grateful for the relationships I have developed within my cohort, especially through my time in project lab at the GSAS and in my healthcare management classes at Heller. It has been a privilege to spend time with, bounce ideas off of, and learn from peers who will become leaders in a wide range of industries.

Something that surprised you: I was surprised by the wealth of resources and opportunities available to students within the program. Of note, the Board Fellows Program through Heller, which matches students with local nonprofit organizations, has been an amazing experience I did not expect would be available coming in. I am beginning my second year of the program working with Resolve New England (RNE), an organization that supports the fertility and family building community throughout the region. Working with RNE has provided invaluable experience in nonprofit management, community organizing, and the pathways to improve human health outside of healthcare institutions.

What you hope to do after graduation: Following my graduation in August 2024, I would like to explore management and clinical work within the broad biotech-healthcare nexus, designing, testing, and implementing innovative projects aimed at improving human health. I will also be continuing a project aimed at evaluating mechanisms of patient-provider coordination in rural regions of Latin America.

Daisy Kiyemba
Daisy M Kiyemba

Daisy is a first-year PhD student in Psychology.

What you’re focusing on in your research: Aging & cognition and memory changes associated with aging and underlying mechanisms of neurodegenerative illnesses, i.e., Alzheimer's disease.

What attracted you to Brandeis: The program offers lab rotations which I was attracted to; i.e., I get to learn different research techniques from a lab different from my home lab.

Something you’ve enjoyed here so far: Perhaps the sense of community in my lab.

What you hope to do after graduation: I’m not sure yet but will possibly go into industry.

Noella Masengesho
Noella Masengesho

Noella is a second-year master's student in Biotechnology.

What you're focusing on in your research: I am pursuing a non-research-focused professional master's degree.

What attracted you to Brandeis: Brandeis University is a tier-one private research University that has built a global name for its innovative discoveries! I was also intrigued by the touching history of how the founders started the school as an institution to give education rights to people who faced discrimination in higher education, both students and faculty. A short story: When I was back home, I heard a few students who study abroad (here in the US) mention attending Brandeis University. These are people who ranked socially higher in our community. Brandeis University stuck in my head, and I thought of it as this top-tier school I would never in my dreams imagine attending nor being an alumnus of! Arriving in the US, I started searching for schools to attend; Brandeis never crossed my mind, not once, because, yes, it was this top-tier school that only rich kids attended, and I am not one. I reached out to the admission committee and was surprised to hear that if I sent in all my application material and was deemed eligible with enough credentials to attend the school, I could get accepted into their programs. Surprisingly, I got accepted and look forward to becoming a Brandeis alum. In this school, every deserving student has a place regardless of their background & social ranking in society! I was also favored to receive a DEI scholarship, which allowed me to pursue higher education, which would have been nearly impossible for me, wasn't it for the school's generous donors.

Something you've enjoyed here so far: I love the school because it has a great location in the suburbs of Boston, a hub for top higher education institutions and known for its top-tier innovations, an advantage to students for connections and networking purposes. The school boasts a small class size where students can freely engage with faculty and advisors and receive mentorship while creating lifelong relationships. I came from industry to go back to grad school, and a professional master's program in Biotechnology was a dream come true for me. This is the first I have heard of such a program. When I was in industry, I worked as an analytical chemist. I knew I wanted to increase my skillset in the Biotech field, but I needed to figure out what program to study in. This program came in handy because the course load, comprising in-person class meetings, seminars, and intensive labs, is more hands-on than theoretical, ideal for practical skill development employers seek. The core skills and scientific knowledge I gained at Brandeis will make me a competitive employee in the biotech field.

Something that surprised you: Generosity and flexibility! At Brandeis University, I have evolved as a whole. I improved academically; I faced challenges that forced me to grow and want to improve and develop my character. I also expanded my professional connections and made lifelong friends through networking! Though the MS in Biotechnology program offers a rigorous curriculum for academic purposes, it also advocates for students' involvement in extracurricular activities both on and off campus by providing financial sponsorship. I was happy and surprised to see that advisors and faculty are willing to provide flexibility to students who are eager to engage in professional development activities outside of the school. Among the highlights were attending the annual NOBCCHE (National Organization for the Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers) Conference 2022 and the Harvard Business School Africa Conference 2023, as well as a summer internship where I got the privilege to work with life-science real estate leaders and mentor in the City of Boston, after which I got to attend the Hoover Institution Summer Policy Bootcamp at Stanford University 2023. Participating in these events was crucial for my professional development because I made friends and expanded my network and connections, which helped me strengthen my career profile.

What do you hope to do after graduation? I plan to pursue a career in life-science real estate, where scientists work with real estate developers to develop research lab buildings. I love and enjoy doing scientific research; I also want to become financially blessed in the near future to own a small research lab where I can design and conduct scientific experiments at home as a hobby.

A stack of four books
Iana Seerung

Iana is a first-year PhD student in English.

What you’re focusing on in your research: Contemporary global literature and film with a focus in literary theory

What attracted you to Brandeis: The flexibility of the English program and the way it structures teaching a self-designed course and doing an internship into the requirements for the degree.

Something you’ve enjoyed here so far: I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the members of my cohort and talking to them about their work and what excites them intellectually.

Something that surprised you: This may sound a bit silly, but I am surprised at how much I still love reading and want to read in my free time. English graduate programs require getting through a lot of books in a semester and I thought that would tire me out, but if anything I feel more inspired by literature than ever.

What you hope to do after graduation: I plan on traveling the world and finding creative ways to leverage my PhD in whatever jobs seem exciting at the time.

Tara Vijayakumar
Tara Vijayakumar

Tara (she/they) is a first-year PhD student in Biochemistry and Biophysics.

What you're focusing on in your research: At the moment, I am a rotation student, so I am trying to find research that excites me and a lab environment I feel at home in!

What attracted you to Brandeis: I really appreciated the grad students and faculty being invested in me, holistically, as a person. They took the time to talk to me one on one; when I was unsure I would find research that was a good fit for me they connected me to other faculty based on my interests. The fact that this was a supportive environment really came through, and I could tell everyone was being honest.

Something you’ve enjoyed here so far: I knew the choice of grad school would mean hard work, but it has shaped up to be a challenge I am really enjoying. I love the intellectual challenge of research, from learning new techniques to teaching myself about new areas of knowledge, together with learning to live on my own for the first time and everything that goes into adulting. As I said before, the environment here has been a really important part in taking this challenge on.

Something that surprised you: I found research I really liked in completely unexpected areas!

What you hope to do after graduation: My long shot dream is to be a PI, but I'd like to keep my options open for whatever may cross my path.