Sharing our legacy: Reflections from consortium leaders

‘Bridge builders and catalysts’ — Oluwatoyin Asojo, PhD, says faculty can support future researchers along the biomedical training pipeline

By Melissa Simon

April 10, 2023

Oluwatoyin Asojo believes that chemistry is more than a “gatekeeper course” for undergraduate students. She sees it as a catalyst that launches researchers into their biomedical careers. 

Asojo, PhD, is the principal investigator for an NIH-funded U01 research grant affiliated with the Diversity Program Consortium’s (DPC) Dissemination and Translational Awards (DaTA), that looks at using evidence-based interventions in chemistry courses at Hampton University to plug leaks in the biomedical training pipeline. She was formerly an associate professor and the chair of the chemistry and biochemistry department at Hampton University until taking on a new role in August 2023 at Dartmouth College as the Associate Director for Strategic Initiatives at the Dartmouth Cancer Center. She will remain on the DPC DaTA project to disseminate its outcomes and will also use the lessons learned from the grant to expand pipeline programs at the center.

In the next part of the DPC series, “Sharing our legacy: Reflections from consortium leaders,” Asojo discusses how efforts to improve chemistry curriculum, using undergraduate research experiences to develop student competency and develop leadership training for faculty, has led to institutional change.

Read the Q&A below to see what Asojo said about her work with the DPC. Watch her full interview, “Bridge builders and catalysts.” 

Q: What are some of the goals of the project you work on for the DPC?

A: The first intervention [or goal] is the curriculum development [called Hampton University Chemistry Education and Mentorship] Hu-ChEM [that uses] evidence-based methods to improve the learning of students of chemistry because we believe that chemistry . . . is a gatekeeper course towards success in the biomedical pipeline. The second goal was to use . . . undergraduate research experiences to develop student competency [so they] can believe in themselves and become more competitive for future careers as biomedical scientists. . . . Our third aim is [to] train faculty to be effective leaders and bridge builders, where they no longer see chemistry as a gatekeeper but as a bridge to student success.

Q: What is one of the biggest impacts of the project so far?

A: We were able to get students to generate a lot of publications, as well as research outcomes. . . . Another piece of the puzzle is the change in the mindset of people involved in the project where we have been able to develop unexpected collaborations and partnerships that have really enhanced the way we think . . . and how we really implement programs within our site. 

Q: What is something positive that’s happened as a result of your project?

A: I have students that, when they first started they were thinking, ‘Oh maybe I'll do a master's after I finish at Hampton,’ [but] after they've participated in a lot of our interventions [they end up] getting into very competitive PhD programs. . . . That joy and that self-belief that you see in the students [because] they now see themselves as scientists [and] knowing that we played a little role in it, that's exciting.

Q: What is the most meaningful lesson you learned from your project?

A: One of the most meaningful lessons I've learned is that, despite COVID, we can still pivot and achieve a lot of our goals. . . . With a shutdown, we had to really change some of the things [like how] our interventions were planned initially to be face-to-face and for the first half we had to do everything virtually. That allowed us to develop additional new tools and I think it just showed us how resilient we all were. . . . Ironically, we were able to use those lessons to expand what we were planning to do and have a bigger impact in terms of the number of students that we could engage.

Q: What do you hope will be the legacy of your work?

A: I hope that more faculty will see themselves as catalysts for [the] success of students rather than simply the source . . . of knowledge. My hope is that we see ourselves as bridge builders and catalysts that enhance the chances and the opportunities for the next generation of students. I hope that the institutional transformation is sustained.

Q: What do you love about being a scientist?

A: I always tell my kids I get paid to have fun and learn. . . . Every day is an opportunity to learn something and discover new things. And who doesn't enjoy getting paid to have fun? That’s why I love being a scientist.

Q: What advice would you give to a future researcher?

A: If you are somebody that is interested in answering questions or you're just curious about why, how [or] what things occur, being a researcher is what you should do [and] you can be a researcher in so many ways.

Asojo’s interview is part of the “Sharing our legacy: Reflections from consortium leaders” series that will be released through the spring of 2024.

A dpc /_next/static/media/News-Icon.668db944.svg icon.

Recent News

A dpc /_next/static/media/Chat-Icon.d89f9794.svg icon.

Connect with us

(or ask us for help!)




















The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.

A dpc /_next/static/media/DPC-Tree.6d907ad5.svg icon.

Grow Together.