Elizabeth McCullum, Ph.D.

Elizabeth McCullumTell us about your current career position. 

I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. I am fully supported by the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veteran’s of Foreign War’s and The Alliance for NanoHealth to work on a project for the identification and delivery of novel peptide therapeutics to specifically target tumorgenic breast cells.

What are the key experiences and decisions you made that have helped you reach your current position?   

I was given the opportunity to work for a physician at the OB/GYN office of Sparks and Favor, PC. and as a Project IMHOTEP intern with Morehouse College at the CDC and NIOSH in a public health program before matriculating in graduate school. These are two of the key experiences that allowed me to shape and develop opinions about the field of science and medicine and equally as important how these areas affect society.

How did you first become interested in science?  

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with the human body. As I got older I realized the true complexity of the machine we call our body and have searched deeper to better understand the molecular interactions that define normal and abnormal and everything in between. There’s so much to learn it’s hard to imagine never being involved in some aspect of scientific knowledge.

Were there times when you failed at something you felt was critical to your path?  If so, how did you regroup and get back on track?                         

As a scientist, there will be unexplained results and multiple repeated experiments as well as academic and networking missed opportunities that have had the potential to get me off track. I often reassess my priorities and talk with a mentor and try again when I feel I am better equipped, but I never give up on something I believe in.

What advice would you give to young persons from under-represented backgrounds who want to pursue a career in science similar to yours?          

I would first say identify what you are interested in studying [write it down]. Identify 3-5 people that in the area, who do not necessarily have to be the top people in the field but give you an accurate depiction of where you want to be [write their names down]. Develop a general idea of what you want to do [write it down] and what you need to do to get there [write it down] then set attainable goals [write them down]. Make sure that you are happy and confident in the decisions that you make, be creative and enjoy yourself. Don’t let science shape you, you shape science. Make sure you ask every “dumb” question you have and you will continue to reach your goals. Lastly, be sincere, honest, direct, and humble in your efforts. People will appreciate these qualities and your work.

What are your hobbies?                       

I enjoy traveling, volunteering in the community, running charitable races and exercising. I hope to soon start learning a new language(s) and how to play the guitar.

What was the last book you read?     

I am currently reading Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder.

Do you have any heroes, heroines, or role models? If so, describe how they have influenced you?   

There are many role models that have been inspiring and motivational. To name a few: my parents and family, Mrs. Hammonds, Mrs. Corley, Dr. Anne Jones, Dr. Regina Benjamin, Dr. Viven Thomas, and Dr. Judy Favor and of course President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama. Each person has a unique way of inspiring and helping re-spark a flame to keep my aspirations in clear perspective.

What is it that keeps you working hard and studying science everyday?   

I have realized that quality and meaningful research takes time, effort and integrity. To excel in certain fields requires unwavering dedication and this manifests itself in reading, asking questions, and actively designing and performing experiments. To make a noble contribution to this community that has given me so much, keeps me motivated that something I say or do will positively influence another person.