Tuskegee University's Integrative Biosciences Ph.D. Program Graduates First Ph.D. Fellow

Tuskegee University's Integrative Biosciences Ph.D.

Program Graduates First Ph.D. Fellow

by Anissa L. Riley

(TUSKEGEE, Ala.) - This year's traditional Mother's Day spring commencement marked a historic moment for the Tuskegee University Integrative Biosciences (IBS) Ph.D. Program with the graduation of the first IBS fellow, Dr. Gemechu Beyene Gerbi, from Liburn, Ga.

Gerbi presented his dissertation in February. The work was entitled "Epidemiologic Research to Address HIV/AIDS in the Black Belt Counties of Alabama" (co-advisers - Drs. Tsegaye Habtemariam and Berhanu Tameru).

Gerbi began his post-doctoral fellowship on June 1 at the Center for Computational Epidemiology, Bioinformatics and Risk Analysis, Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health.

"Dr. Tameru and I, as co-advisers, have been fortunate to work with Dr. Gerbi over the past several years. He is an upstanding and dedicated scholar who is a self-driven scientist. His future in the academy is bright and we expect he will make significant contributions to science in general and to advances in epidemiology in particular. He is both gifted and well prepared to share his knowledge with others," said Habtemariam, dean of the CVMNAH.

As a postdoctoral fellow at Tuskegee University, Gerbi will continue to be engaged in biomedical research and teaching with emphasis on community-based research. His special area of focus is in integrating the psychosocial sciences and biomedical sciences in a cohesive manner within an interdisciplinary framework.

The IBS Program had been a vision in the minds of University administrators for more than a decade.  Tuskegee University's Board of Trustees approved the program in 2005.  The IBS Ph.D. Program finally became a reality in 2006 with the entering class in the fall semester of that year. The program is supported by the College of Agricultural, Environmental and Natural Sciences, under the leadership of Dean Walter Hill, Ph.D., and Dean Tsegaye Habtemariam, D.V.M., Ph.D., CVMNAH.

"The graduation from the IBS Ph.D. program by Dr. Gerbi signals an important milestone for Tuskegee University and the nation. Built upon a unique legacy,  diverse science disciplines and deep connections into communities, significant contributions toward a better world and improvements in people's lives are eagerly anticipated from Tuskegee University's IBS PhD students, alumni and faculty," Hill said.

The academic deans of the two colleges along with University Provost Luther Williams, Ph.D., as Dean of Graduate Studies, provide program oversight in the form of an IBS Deans Council.  Dr. Williams also serves as Vice-President of Academic Affairs. 

"This substantive attainment by Dr. Gerbi marks a transformational change for STEM education at Tuskegee University.  Not only has Dr. Gerbi earned the highest possible degree in his field, he has emerged as a world-class, broadly-trained, deeply and integrative thinking scientist and professional, fully capable of elucidating the mechanisms that underlie some of the world's most challenging and complex biosciences issues.  He is to be commended for his participation in the inaugural cadre of IBS student-scientists," Williams said. "Dr. Gerbi is a pioneer, in what we understand will be a long, productive processional of exquisitely trained innovative researchers.  We are delighted to witness this most significant accomplishment, which is the manifestation of a myriad of programmatic developments, funding programs and instructional modalities."

The IBS Program leverages the combined resources and support of nine departments and countless research cores and centers.

Students admitted to the IBS Program receive a $30,000/year fellowship as well as tuition, fees and health insurance.  The expected time from entering until an IBS fellow completes the degree is three to five years.  Applications for the program can be downloaded from www.tuskegee.edu, and consist of the application to Tuskegee University, three letters of reference, a statement of interest, a curriculum vitae or resume, and official transcripts from all universities attended.  The annual deadline for applications is December 15.

Also noteworthy is the successful Ph.D. dissertation presented by Cecelia Yates, from Atlanta, three days before graduation. Yates, who has plans to participate in spring commencement, next year, presented "Dermal-Epidermal Communication Mediated by CXCR3 Receptor and its Ligand

" (co-advisers - Drs. Timothy Turner, Marcia Martinez, and Alan Wells).  Dr. Yates began a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pittsburg, School of Medicine on June 1.

"This day marks a landmark feat for the IBS Program here at Tuskegee University.  We are elated to have our first two Ph.D. fellows successfully defend their dissertations, one of whom was awarded his IBS Ph.D. degree during commencement.   Dr. Gerbi and Dr. Yates are well on their way to now becoming outstanding scientists and researchers, whose investigations will productively impact the global scientific community as well as laypeople, whose tax dollars and continued support make programs like the IBS Ph.D. Program possible," said Dr. Deloris Alexander, IBS Ph.D. Program Director.

For questions and more information on the IBS Program, please contact:  Dr. A. Deloris Alexander, IBS Ph.D. Program Director at 334-552-0690 or dalexander@tuskegee.edu.