Alison Gammie, Ph.D., Princeton University, New Jersey, has been honored with the 2013 William A. Hinton Research Training Award. Given in honor of William A. Hinton, a physician-research scientist and one of the first African-Americans to join ASM, this award is presented to an individual who has made exceptional contributions toward promoting the research training of underrepresented minorities in microbiology. Gerald Fink, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, describes Gammie as “the spirit behind Princeton's ambitious agenda for immersing minority students in basic research.”
Gammie received her B.A. in Biology from Reed College and her Ph.D. from the Oregon Health & Sciences University. Currently Gammie is a Senior Lecturer at Princeton University. In addition to being a teacher, mentor, and researcher, Gammie is also Director of the Molecular, Quantitative & Computational Summer Undergraduate Research Program, Director of Diversity Programs & Graduate Recruiting in Molecular and Quantitative & Computational Biology, and an Associate Member at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Lynn Enquist, Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton, says that Gammie “is an outstanding teacher and mentor, and is the driving force for much of our undergraduate activities.” In 2004, Gammie was honored with the Princeton University President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching. Gammie’s research uses yeast as a model organism to understand how defects in DNA mismatch repair lead to cancer in higher organisms.
Gammie’s dedication to increasing the representation of women and minorities in biomedical science is evidenced by her former research students, 86% of whom are women and 38% are under-represented minorities. The advanced, inquiry-based laboratory course that Gammie has designed and taught helps students learn a variety of skills and techniques while conducting original research on the role of DNA mismatch repair and a common hereditary cancer syndrome. The topic was specifically chosen to capture the interest of a wide array of students, including those interested in physics, engineering, chemistry, and biology. Because of its success, many educators have contacted Gammie about implementing aspects of her course.
Through her work as Director of the Princeton Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Summer Undergraduate Research Program, and the Diversity Programs & Graduate Recruiting in Molecular and Quantitative & Computational Biology, Gammie has helped the Princeton community increase diversity. The latter program was created by Gammie in order to address the underrepresentation of certain minority students in the Molecular Biology, Quantitative & Computational Biology, and Neuroscience graduate programs at Princeton. By implementing numerous outreach activities, such as expanding the summer undergraduate research program, increasing Princeton’s presence at national meetings for under-represented minorities, and reaching out to minority serving institutions, underrepresented minorities have risen from less than 1% of each incoming graduate class to approximately 23% of each class. The Diversity Program is concerned not only with recruiting talented underrepresented minority students, but also with making sure that these students have the knowledge and skills to succeed as scientists by the completion of their Ph.D. programs. Cynthia Bauerle, assistant director in Science Education at HHMI and former biology chair at Spelman College, has been impressed with Gammie’s Diversity Program, noting that it “reflects an understanding of the need for balancing long term commitment with ongoing “real time” efforts to both develop and support a more diverse graduate student population.”
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