North Carolina Central University (NCCU) achieved an important milestone by awarding its first Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees in more than a half-century during the 129th Graduate and Professional Commencement Exercises on Friday, May 12, 2017.
The three new Ph.D. graduates – Elena Arthur, originally from Ghana; Rasheena Edmondson, from Wilson County, N.C.; and Helen Oladapo, from Nigeria – were part of the first cohort of students to enter the doctoral program after it opened in 2012.
“The three young ladies who have earned the Ph.D. degree in Integrated Biosciences are the epitome of strength, tenacity and Eagle Excellence,” said NCCU Interim Chancellor, Johnson O. Akinleye, Ph.D.
The doctorate offers two tracks – Integrated Biosciences and Pharmaceutical Sciences – and focuses on the investigation of diseases that disproportionately affect people of color. A U.S. Department of Education report notes that both African-Americans and women are vastly underrepresented among Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
As part of her research into alternative treatments for diabetes alongside NCCU professor Jiaua Xie, Ph.D., Arthur investigated how proteins could be used to protect pancreatic beta cells, which are diminished in patients with diabetes. She plans to enter into a postdoctoral program following graduation.
Edmondson and Oladapo both conducted cancer research. Edmondson, who is heading for the pharmaceuticals field after graduation, has worked with NCCU professor Liju Yang, Ph.D., to study particular types of cellular activities. Oladapo worked closely with NCCU professor Kevin Williams, Ph.D., in testing substances for potential new cancer fighting drugs. She plans to begin work in drug development while also serving as a patient advocate in clinical trials that include diverse populations.
These are the first doctoral degrees awarded at NCCU since a short-lived Ed.D. program ended in 1964.
A video highlighting the Ph.D. graduates is available here.