First Year Scholars

First Year Scholars

Dr. Dashauna Ballard

Dr. DaShauna Ballard received a BS in Biology from the University of the Alabama in 2013, an MS in Public Heath from UAB in 2014, and a PhD in Health Education and Promotion from the University of Alabama in 2022. Dr. Ballard is performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Suzanne Judd PhD, Professor of Biostatistics, reducing health disparities related to COVID in rural populations.

Dr. Amanda Clark

Dr. Amanda Clark received a BS in Molecular Biology from the UAB in 2013 and a PhD in Biology from Auburn University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 2022. Dr. Clark is performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Brittany Lasseigne PhDProfessor of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology, applying computational biology methodologies to improve understanding of patient-variant disease models.

Dr. Mariana Dupont

Dr. Mariana Dupont received a BS in Biology from Dillard University in 2017 and a PhD in Vision Science from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2022. Dr. Dupont is performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Burel Goodin PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, conducting laboratory-based pain research in patient cohorts.

Dr. Jarren Oates

Dr. Jarren Oates received a BS in Biology and an MS in Secondary Education - Life Sciences both from the University of Arkansas in 2014 and 2016, respectively, and a PhD in Immunology from the University of Cincinnati in 2022. Dr. Oates is performing his postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Brian Sims, MD, PhDProfessor of Pediatrics, elucidating the role of exosomes in the neonatal brain.

Second Year Scholars

Second Year Scholars

Dr. Laurence Boitet

Dr. Laurence Boitet

Dr. Laurence Boitet received a BS in Microbiology from University of Georgia in 2015 anda PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2019. Dr. Boitet is currently performing postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Robin Lanzi, Professor of Health Behavior in the School of Public Health elucidating the impact of COVID-19 and racial injustice on graduate student and postdoctoral behavioral outcomes.

Dr. Boitet has selected Dr. Christina Sestero, Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Montevallo and MERIT Scholar Alumnus, as her MERIT Teaching Mentor.


Dr. Bobby Jones

Dr. Bobby Jones

Dr. Bobby Jones received a BS in Biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2010, an MA in Biology from Fisk University in 2014, and a PhD in Microbiology from Meharry Medical College in 2021. Dr. Jones is performing his postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Jennifer Pollock, Professor of Medicine, investigating circadian rhythms with a western diet and how this may cause alterations in redox and metabolic mechanisms resulting in vascular damage.

Dr. Jones has selected Dr. Steven LaiHing, Associate Professor of Chemistry, at Oakwood University as his MERIT Teaching Mentor.

Dr. Annesha King

Dr. Annesha King

Dr. Annesha King received a BS in Biology from the University of the Virgin Islands in 2014 and a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2021. Dr. King is performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Nicole Riddle PhD, Associate Professor of Biology, elucidating chromatin structure in Drosophila.

Dr. King has selected Dr. Melissa Richardson, Associate Professor of Biology at Oakwood University, as her MERIT Teaching Mentor.

Dr. Bre' Minnifield

Dr. Bre' Minnifield

Dr. Bre’ Minnifield received an MS in Biology from Virginia State in 2015 and a PhD in Genetics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2021. Dr. Minnifield is performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Nicole Riddle, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology, examining the intersection of exercise biology, genomics, and quantitative genetics in the context of aging.

Dr. Minniefield has selected Dr. Elaine Vanterpool, Professor and Chair of Biology, at Oakwood University as her MERIT Teaching Mentor.

Third Year Scholars

Third Year Scholars

Dr. Lisa Antoine

Dr. Lisa Antoine

Dr. Lisa Antoine received a BS in Electrical Engineering from Mississippi State University in 1990 and an MS in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina A&T University in 1993. In 2020, she was awarded a PhD in Interdisciplinary Engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Antoine is now performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Burel Goodin, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, developing advanced analytics for neural imaging.
Dr. Antoine has selected Dr. Tracey Wilson, Professor of Natural Science at Lawson State Community College, as her MERIT Teaching Mentor.

Dr. Taylor Buchanan

Dr. Taylor Buchanan

Dr. Taylor Buchanan received a BS in Physical Activity and Health in 2014 and an MS in Exercise Science in 2015, both from Auburn University. In 2020, she was awared a PhD in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology from the University of Florida. Dr. Buchanan is performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Thomas Buford, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, elucidating mechanisms of exercise and aging. In addition to her research efforts, Dr. Buchanan was a founding member of the UAB Black Postdoctoral Association and served as a poster judge for the 2020 ABRCMS Virtual Conference.
Dr. Buchanan has selected Dr. Melissa Richardson, Associate Professor of Biology at Oakwood University, as her MERIT Teaching Mentor.

Dr. Kasi McPherson

Dr. Kasi McPherson received a BS in Biology from the University of Louisiana in 2010 and an MS in Medical Sciences from Mississippi College in 2011. In 2017, she was awared a PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology from University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dr. McPherson is performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Brittany Lasseigne, PhD, Assistant Professof ro Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology, utilizing multipdimensional gemomic data and bioinformatics in disease modeling. 
Dr. McPherson has selected Dr. Heather Tinsley, Associate Professor of Biology at University of Montevallo, as her MERIT Teaching Mentor.
Fourth Year Scholars

Fourth Year Scholars

Dr. Christina Morra

Dr. Christina Morra

Dr. Christina Morra received a BS in Genetic Engineering from Cedar Crest College in 2011 and, in 2019, was awarded a PhD in Molecular and Biomedical Science from the Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Morra is now performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Dr. Sami Raut, Associate Professor of Biology, examining new approaches toward active learning in STEM education.
Dr. Morra is continuing her teaching instruction with Dr. Steven LaiHing, Associate Professor of Chemistry, at Oakwood University. In this regard, she has served as guest lecturer for General Chemistry (for majors) and General Microbiology. For her teaching efforts, Dr. Morra received the ‘Inclusive Teaching and Research Project Idea Award’ from the Inclusive Environments and Metrics in Biology Education and Research (iEMBER) Network .