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Little did 15-year-old Emmitt R. Jolly know that satisfying his curiosity in Tuskegee University’s labs while participating in the university’s summer programs would lead him to becoming a renowned genetic researcher. Jolly shared the impact of his days working with Tuskegee’s scientific greats during his keynote address at the 94th annual Charter Day/Homecoming Convocation on Sunday, Oct. 21.
During his address, Jolly, who is now on the faculty of Case Western Reserve University, recalled the influence faculty like the late Dr. James H.M. Henderson, Dr. John Williams, and Dr. Channapatna Prakash, current dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, had on his maturing interest in the sciences. Today, Jolly serves as an associate professor in Case Western’s Department of Biology, and holds a position in the Center for Global Health and Disease in the Case Western School of Medicine.
Jolly’s current NIH-funded research focuses on understanding gene expression, gene regulation, and host invasion of the parasitic schistosome worm — the causative agent of schistosomiasis, which infects more than 200 million people worldwide.
“I came to Tuskegee with the hopes of joining the rest of the world that would challenge the status quo,” he noted. “Don’t give up when things are difficult, because difficulty builds character and strength –– and like a good mother, Mother Tuskegee gives you both, in order to prepare you for the challenges in the future.”
His message to students also focused on the attributes of determination and optimism.
“There are studies of success and studies of successful people. Most of them are consistent and they come on two things — determination and grit, and the second being faith and optimism,” Jolly added.
During his studies at Tuskegee, Jolly was a MARC Scholar, Presidential Scholar, and one of USA Today’s Top 40 National Scholars. While a student, and under the guidance of Dr. Erin K. O’Shea, current president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, he co-authored a seminal paper in Science that described how genes are turned on and off through protein modification and protein localization in and out of a cell’s nucleus.
Jolly later went on to receive a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of California, San Francisco, where he also completed a postdoctoral fellowship.
Please view the video below which features Jolly’s entire convocation address.
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