By Naidelly Coelho
What is your educational and career background?
I am a native of Tampa, Florida, so my high school is Thomas Jefferson High School. It's a predominantly Hispanic and Black high school in the Tampa Bay area. From there, I graduated from high school in 2012. And then, from 2012 to 2016, I attended a historically Black university called Savannah State University in Savannah, Georgia, and that's where I obtained my bachelor's of forensic science with a concentration in chemistry. And so during those four years is where I kind of found my interest in research and the sciences. From 2016 to more recently - the beginning of this year, 2022 - I attended Florida International University and obtained my Ph.D. in biochemistry.
What is your job at FSU?
I'm a part of what we call the Mary Miles Bibb Teaching Fellowship. It's a program that they've reinstated more recently, which allows me to hold the title of an assistant professor of chemistry here at Framingham State University. So, my official title is assistant professor of chemistry, but I have that because of the fellowship. And currently, I'm also a part of a new grant that they brought to Framingham State, which is the Massachusetts AGEP [Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate], which is through NSF, so I'm also a part of that cohort.
How did you earn the Mary Miles Bibb Teaching Fellowship?
I literally saw it in an email. When I was finishing up my Ph.D., I was trying to understand if I wanted to go industry, or if I wanted to go academia, and so then I knew I wanted to teach. That was like a calling for me. I just saw how it existed when I was a student, as well as observing it - hands-on as what we call a T.A. when you're doing your doctorate. So you were a teaching assistant, so you really had the power over your labs. But in the sense of actually teaching chemistry, I knew that's something I really wanted to do. And this postdoctoral fellowship allows me to do that. It gives me the grace to strictly focus on learning how to be a better professor because a lot of times when you get into these positions, you are kind of thrown into it. So this position allows me to really grow my teaching pedagogy, and allows me to refine my skills and get better at teaching chemistry.
Do you have any goals for your career?
Ultimately, I've always wanted to start a school - STEM-focused school, but that's kind of a long shot. But currently, at least at Framingham State University, what I want to do is get the students of color who are in the STEM field more involved with STEM activities. So I want to start a forensic science course here at the University. So I'm kind of working on that now trying to figure out the proper channels in doing that. But I definitely want to get the students of color who are in the STEM field, more involved in activities that will help them get experience, as well as make them more appealing to whatever their future endeavors are with medical school, or going to get a doctorate or whatever the case may be. Just really getting them involved and exposing them to the opportunities that exist to do that, because someone did it for me. I only have two years, so let's think that's the caveat about the postdoctoral fellowship. It is only a two-year assignment. So, I'm trying to do as much as I can or make an impact as much as I can while I'm at it.
Do you have any hobbies outside of your work?
I really like to work out, and I really like to play basketball. I'm currently recovering from ACL surgery from six months ago, so I haven't been able to kind of get involved in the scene. But I truly love working out and playing basketball. I'm excited for the basketball season this year. I will be attending a lot of games to see some of my students who are actually a part of the team. I'm excited about that.
Do you have any advice for students?
Don't give up. I know a lot of times as a first-year student or even getting ready to graduate, it's like, “What am I doing? Where do I have to go?” Don't give up whatever you do. There's always help available for you.