Amazing Students

Brittany Jenkins

Brittany Jenkins is the epitome of a successful STEM student. As a Ph.D. student in genetics, she is committed to finding a cure for cancer, and she has found the support at UGA to help her achieve her lofty goals.

Hometown:

Summerville, SC

High School:

Fort Dorchester High School

Degree objective:

Ph.D. Genetics

Other degrees:

M.S. Biotechnology, 2014, Claflin University
B.S. Genetics, 2010, Clemson University

Expected graduation:

Spring 2019

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

I have been fortunate enough to be involved in a number of excellent programs at the University of Georgia, in addition to being the recipient of several fellowships and scholarships from UGA and beyond.

My most notable achievement is being awarded one of the 2017 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study, which aims to promote a diverse and well-trained work force in the STEM disciplines. This national award, which totals up to $138,000 over three years, will allow me to continue my Ph.D. work with all the necessary tools I need to be successful, in addition to helping me be able to train the next generation of diverse scientists. This award would not have been possible without the help of the UGA Graduate School and a nomination from the Department of Genetics, so I am very grateful for their support!

My research on the genetics of breast cancer health disparities has allowed me to travel many places to further my training. I am currently located in Detroit, Michigan, where I am continuing my dissertation work at Henry Ford Health System under my adviser, Dr. Melissa Davis. Moving here has afforded me an excellent opportunity to interact and network with top oncologists and clinicians, patients and other personnel in the health care field. I am able to attend weekly tumor board meetings where I hear about breast cancer cases and attend seminars, talks and conferences that allow me to stay on top of the current state of the field. This has been an amazing experience so far, and I am very fortunate to be able to finish my Ph.D. in this environment.

One of the organizations at UGA that is near and dear to my heart is GRADS (Graduate Research Assistants Diversifying STEM). When I first came to UGA for graduate school in 2014, a group of us were asked to revive an organization that aimed to serve and support minority graduate students in the STEM disciplines. As there was not currently a program like this at UGA, I jumped at the opportunity to lead this organization as president with the help of several other amazing graduate students. We worked together to build GRADS to the impact organization that it is today, continuing to serve minority STEM graduate students at UGA. One of our signature programs, Industry Night, takes place every spring and brings local industry professionals and highly motivated graduate students together for an incredible night of networking! Make sure you check it out!

I have been honored to receive several awards and scholarships from UGA and other organizations. I was the recipient of a UGA Graduate School GRO fellowship through the genetics departmental training grant, in addition to the Mary Laraine Young Hines ’68 Graduate Fellowship in Cancer Research. My work in cancer is something that is very personal for me, and I am so fortunate to be able to investigate genetic causes of racial disparities seen in breast cancer between African-American and Caucasian women. We study a very aggressive form of breast cancer, triple negative, and hope to make strides in determining genetic factors that predispose certain groups to this subtype of cancer.

Through travel awards from UGA and other organizations and sources, I have been able to present my dissertation work nationally and internationally, including conferences in Hollywood, California, and Thessaloniki, Greece. I have also received a National Institutes of Health diversity supplement and scholarship from the Mensa foundation and was nominated and inducted into the UGA chapter of the Blue Key Honor Society. I served on a search committee for the associate dean of the Graduate School in addition to serving as secretary of the Genetics Graduate Student Association. I truly enjoy serving my community and my school by participating in programs and doing my small part to help improve the UGA community and institution!

I am so fortunate to be able to further my education at a place like UGA, and have received so much support and encouragement from professors and students alike. I truly feel like I am part of the UGA family and look forward to finishing my Ph.D. at such an amazing school.

Current Employment:

Graduate Research Assistant — Genetics

Family Ties to UGA:

I am the first in my family to attend UGA, but I’m sure I won’t be the last!

I chose to attend UGA because…

I chose this university because of the breadth of research and the quality of the professors here. Not only is my adviser amazing, but I have several other mentors at UGA that support my efforts and provide great advice and guidance throughout my higher education journey. If I could do it all over, I would definitely choose UGA again.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

I loved walking to the Creamery on East Campus with my friends to get outside and get some fresh air (and ice cream)! We used to study there or just sit outside and enjoy the beautiful Georgia weather.

When I have free time, I like…

I love to cook! It reminds me a lot of science (which is probably why I like it). I enjoy following recipes, but I absolutely love going outside of the box and putting my own spin on things. My roommate and I used to cook all the time and we came up with the craziest foods!

The craziest thing I've done is…

… move 14 hours from home into uncharted territory to finish my Ph.D.! I was definitely nervous as to what Michigan had to offer (I am a Southern girl after all), but I have found a home here at Henry Ford and would definitely make the move again if I could. I have learned so much after being here only a few months, and this kind of training is INVALUABLE to my career. I’m so thankful UGA allowed me to move here to finish my research.

My favorite place to study is…

… my BED! Believe it or not. I like to be comfortable (and warm) when I study. I kind of get into this zone and surprisingly, I rarely fall asleep when I’m working!

My favorite professor is…

This is a tough one … there have been so many professors at UGA that have positively impacted my time here. I think my favorite professor is Dr. Brian Condie. He is one of the smartest people I know, and I really enjoyed taking his Nucleic Acids genetics course last fall, as he took the time to make sure we really understood the course content. He is a great professor and I remember walking out of that class, reflecting on everything I’d learned and thinking that was the best course I’d ever taken!

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

I would FOR SURE have lunch with Barack Obama! He is such an inspirational man to many people across this country (including me), and I would be honored to have a conversation with him about literally any topic.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… find the cure for cancer!

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… travel the world. I love traveling and experiencing different cultures, foods, languages, etc. There is so much diversity in this world and it would be a shame to only experience one little part of it!

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?

My passion is learning everything I can about cancer and how to get rid of it! Like many, my family has been affected by cancer and it’s something I think about every day. I am committed to pursing this passion by continuing my research on breast cancer and encouraging others to go into cancer research. Cancer is poised to take over heart disease as the No. 1 killer in the U.S., so we need all the help we can get to fight it!

After graduation, I plan to…

… pursue a post-doc in clinical genetics and/or cancer research. I would love to eventually work at the CDC Cancer Prevention and Control group or Emory’s Cancer Institute.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… going to my first UGA football game! UGA played Clemson, which is where I went for my undergrad. I had so much fun with my friends and experiencing the buzzing atmosphere that UGA football brings to campus. It was definitely something to remember.

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