TUSKEGEE, Ala. (May 23, 2013) — LaKisha Odom, a graduate of the Integrative Biosciences Ph.D. program, will help regulate government policy on biotechnology. She has been awarded an American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS, Science & Technology Policy Fellowship with a placement at the United States Department of Agriculture. Odom works in the university’s Department of Agriculture and Environmental Science as a research associate.
Integrative Biosciences Ph.D. program graduate, LaKisha Odom.
Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon.
Odom was chosen for the fellowship through a rigorous selection process with more than 850 applicants vying to be among the approximately 130 fellows selected for the 2013-2014 class of scientists and engineers who will spend a year working in federal agencies or congressional offices. The fellows contribute their training and expertise in public service to the U.S. government while learning first-hand about policy making and implementation at the federal level.
Odom will spend the coming academic year at the USDA in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Biotechnology Regulatory Service (BRS), where she will work in the Office of Science, as part of the Office of the Deputy Administrator. The Office of Science ensures that BRS regulation is grounded in state-of-the-art science in order to realize the promise of biotechnology and maintain the integrity and credibility of the organization, by facilitating the recognition and transparent transfer between and within BRS and the research, regulatory, and stakeholder communities of scientific knowledge useful for development of regulatory policies and decisions.
Odom’s doctoral research focused on testing of genetically modified crops transformed with a synthetic antimicrobial peptide D4E1 (which is patented by Tuskegee professor, Jesse Jaynes) to assess their impact on soil microbial diversity and enzymatic activity. During her doctoral research, Odom was selected as the first CREATE-IGERT fellow to travel to Ireland to work on ground breaking biotechnology research with Ewen Mullins. She was also selected in 2012 as the American Phytopathological Society Early Career Intern which allows her to participate in the policy decisions of a national professional society.
Odom received her Ph.D. in 2011. She also has a master’s degree in environmental resource policy from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in environment science from Tuskegee.
Program moving forward
“This opportunity speaks to the caliber of the training that students receive through the Integrative Biosciences Program. The program is designed to develop professionals who have not only technical proficiency but who also possess the flexibility and adaptability to address the complexities of current challenges, said Luther S. Williams, provost and executive vice president. “Moreover, as the first such Tuskegee University Ph.D. graduate to be so appointed, Dr. Odom provides critically important evidence of the university’s productive capacity and has set a very high bar for future graduates of the IBS program, in particular.”
In 2005, Tuskegee University’s IBS Ph.D. program was approved by the Tuskegee University Board of Trustees. According to Deloris Alexander, the program’s director, it was established with the hope that Tuskegee’s first Ph.D. program in the life sciences would “significantly contribute to the intellectual capacity of the nation and the diversity of America’s science and technical workforce.” Supported by the College of Agriculture, Environment, and Nutrition Sciences (CAENS); the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS); and the College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health (CVMNAH), the program accepted its inaugural class of seven students in 2006. This month, three more students earned their doctorate degrees, resulting in 11 Ph.D. graduates in seven years.