MEET THE TEAM

The Faces of Our Organization

BlackinCancer has developed so quickly in the last few months. We’re extremely proud of each and every member of the organising committee, not only for their scientific contributions to cancer research but also their ability to contribute their own unique experience and skills to our success. Find out more about some of our organising committee and co-founders below.

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DR HENRY HENDERSON III

Co-Founder

Dr. Henry J. Henderson is a cancer biologist and health-promotion advocate. He earned his PhD in Integrative Biosciences from Tuskegee University and is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the division of Hematology/Oncology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. His research focuses on understanding non-small cell lung cancer and improving therapeutic strategies with a particular focus on mechanisms of sensitivity and resistance to agents used in clinical practice. As a dedicated champion of diversity in cancer research, he is additionally involved in strengthening scientific/medical literacy and increasing cancer awareness within the African-American community.

SIGOURNEY BELL

Co-Founder

Sigourney is a second year graduate student at the University of Cambridge. She earned her Bachelors in Human Physiology from the University of Leeds and then went on to work for both Pfizer and AstraZeneca in Neuroscience and Oncology respectively. She is currently pursuing her PhD, with her research centring on developing novel models and therapeutics for paediatric brain tumours, more specifically supratentorial ependymoma. Outside of her research, Sigourney is passionate about scientific outreach and encouraging the next generation of Black students into STEM subjects.

ORGANISING COMMITTEE

DR. ASHLEY HUDERSON

Dr. Ashley Huderson is a researcher, STEM Policy Expert, Professor, Author, Speaker and Entrepreneur. A culmination of personal and academic interest prompted her to turn her sights completely to diversity and inclusion issues within STEM education and embark on a career that would allow her to make a meaningful contribution on diversifying the scientific workforce and empowering those interested in STEM. Dr. Huderson currently serves as the Director of Engineering Education and Outreach at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and as an adjunct professor at the University of the District of Columbia. She has published over 10 technical papers, 2 book chapters, and received numerous awards related to mentorship, leadership, and STEM advocacy. Dr. Ashley Huderson is a native of New Orleans, LA. She is a 2006 graduate of Spelman College (B.S. Chemistry) and a 2013 Ph.D graduate of Meharry Medical College (Biomedical Research).

CHRIS BOURNE

Chris Bourne is a 4th year PhD Candidate at Weill Cornell/Sloan-Kettering Institute. He received a BA in Biology and Spanish Literature from Swarthmore College. For his graduate work he studies cancer immunotherapy, aiming to use T cells to deliver drugs to tumors, and uncover novel immunotherapuetic targets. He is passionate about diversity in biomedical research and helps run programs and committees to improve recruitment, retention, and promotion of underrepresented students.

CHRYSTELLE VILFRANC

Chrystelle L. Vilfranc is a Brooklyn native who received her B.S. in Biochemistry from Oakwood University. She is a PhD candidate studying Cancer and Cell Biology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, where she focuses on the mechanisms involved in the protection of the liver against injury and subsequent chronic diseases, such as liver fibrosis and liver cancer. She is passionate about STEM Education reform, specifically the retention of black students in STEM fields. Chrystelle is the creator of #RevealToHeal, a writing series for women of color in STEM, done in collaboration with #VanguardSTEM. Though a cancer biologist in training and a champion for health education overall, Chrystelle is specifically committed to reproductive and mental health advocacy.

DR. DANIELLE TWUM

Hailing from Ghana, West Africa, Dr. Danielle Twum received her B.A. in Biology from Vassar College where she studied the effects of climate change on coral bleaching. Danielle received her PhD in Cancer Immunology from the University at Buffalo where she studied the immunology of breast cancer metastasis. She currently works as a Molecular Science Liaison at Caris Life Sciences. Dr. Twum is an AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador, an initiative aimed at increasing visibility of women in STEM as role models for young girls.

ELSHADDAI WHITE

Elshaddai White, a native of Franklin, Louisiana, is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biological Sciences and Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences from Louisiana State University in 2012 and a Master of Science degree in Biological Sciences from Jacksonville State University in 2014. His research focuses on adaptive stress mechanisms within the tumor microenvironment, explicitly investigating how serum deprivation primes tumor cells to adapt and survive hostile environments in prostate cancer. His long-term career goal is to become an independent investigator and continue research in cancer biology and, later, train and develop future minority cancer scientists while putting forth his best efforts to eradicate this disease.

JANAE SWEENEY

Janae Sweeney is a fourth-year Ph.D.  candidate, cancer biologist, and NIH/NIGMS RISE Program scholar in the Department of Biological Sciences and Center for Cancer Research & Therapeutic Development at Clark Atlanta University. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Shortly after, she received her Master of Science with an emphasis in Cellular Molecular Biology & Physiology from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. Janae’s dissertation research focuses on delineating the mechanistic role of manganese superoxide dismutase polymorphisms in prostate cancer progression. Upon completion of her doctoral program, she plans to return to her former teaching position at South Carolina State University, to continue her passion for helping students learn more about science, as it pertains to their own studies, research, and even medicine. Additionally, Janae strives to empower Black women to pursue careers in STEM and is currently developing a mentoring program to facilitate in those efforts.

DR. JAYE GARDINER

Dr. Jaye C. Gardiner is a cancer biologist and illustrator who is passionate about STEM education and increasing representation. She received her PhD in Cancer Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently completing her postdoctoral work at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA. There, she researches pancreatic cancer's tumor microenvironment with the hopes of understanding how the body's local environment communicates to support the tumor so future therapeutics may disrupt this communication. In addition to research, Jaye creates comics to make science more accessible and is an AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador.

KAELA MAKINS

Kaela Makins is a Senior at Hamilton College as a Miami Posse scholar, working toward earning her B.A. in Biology. She has dabbled in a few different research projects ranging from cancer research to microbiology, but finds that her strongest interest lies in genetic research, specifically with a focus in cancer and health disparities. Her thesis research focuses on studying the effects of lead toxicity on reproduction, behavior, and neurogenesis, as well as its impact on generational inheritance. Kaela is passionate about seeing inclusive STEM environments for Black and Brown students in the spaces that she involves herself in (and beyond). Kaela is the Head Co-Chair and Co-Founder of ROOTS, a Hamilton College organization focused on uplifting and supporting students of color interested in STEM focused concentrations and careers.

DR. KORIE GRAYSON

Dr. Korie Grayson is a biomedical engineer and a diversity advocate in STEM. She is a proud alumna of the HBCU Norfolk State University, where she earned her BS in Chemistry (2012). Korie obtained her MS (2017) and PhD (2020) in Biomedical Engineering from Cornell University where she defended her thesis, “Cellular Delivery of TRAIL to Treat Metastatic-Castration Resistant Prostate Cancer”, during the COVID-19 pandemic under Dr. Michael R. King. Currently, Korie is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan under the tutelage of Dr. Lola Eniola-Adefeso in Chemical Engineering. Her research focuses on the evaluation of novel nano- and microparticles for therapy in neutrophilic, acute inflammatory disease and cancer.

DR. KILAN ASHAD-BISHOP

Dr. Kilan C. Ashad-Bishop is a California-born biomedical scientist & change agent based in Miami, FL. She currently serves as a Postdoctoral Researcher in the University of Miami School of Education & Human Development and the Director of College Access for Breakthrough Miami. Kilan is an HBCU Grad (Morgan State University) & holds a PhD in Cancer Biology from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

RALPH WHITE III

Ralph White III is a 4th year PhD candidate in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He received his B.S in Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry from Furman University, where he studied the thermodynamics of the inhibition of High Mobility Group A proteins bound to AT rich DNA by Netropsin. Currently, his research is focused on evaluating the synergy of combination therapy involving select kinase inhibitors and the standard of care for Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer. In addition to his research, Ralph is involved in STEM outreach within the Twin Cities community, engaging all with his love of science.

ROLANDO LYLES

Rolando D.Z. Lyles is a 5th year PhD Candidate studying Cancer Biology at the University of Miami. He has dedicated his research career to studying prostate cancer which is the most frequently diagnosed and one of the most lethal cancers in black men worldwide. His thesis work is focused on identifying therapeutic vulnerabilities for uncurable castration-resistant prostate cancer through indirect antagonism of a constitutively active androgen receptor variant. Rolando is also a Posse National Scholar and has earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree in Bioengineering with minors in Mathematics and Engineering Entrepreneurship and Master of Biotechnology degree with a focus on Biopharmaceuticals/Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. His combined knowledge of the disciplines of biotechnology, biomedical engineering, and cancer philosophy has poised Rolando to serve as a pillar of information and knowledge to serve his community. As and after he completes his PhD, Rolando will create initiatives to make medical science knowledge more accessible and digestible to under-served communities.

ORGANISING COMMITTEE

DR. ASHLEY HUDERSON

Dr. Ashley Huderson is a researcher, STEM Policy Expert, Professor, Author, Speaker and Entrepreneur. A culmination of personal and academic interest prompted her to turn her sights completely to diversity and inclusion issues within STEM education and embark on a career that would allow her to make a meaningful contribution on diversifying the scientific workforce and empowering those interested in STEM. Dr. Huderson currently serves as the Director of Engineering Education and Outreach at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and as an adjunct professor at the University of the District of Columbia. She has published over 10 technical papers, 2 book chapters, and received numerous awards related to mentorship, leadership, and STEM advocacy. Dr. Ashley Huderson is a native of New Orleans, LA. She is a 2006 graduate of Spelman College (B.S. Chemistry) and a 2013 Ph.D graduate of Meharry Medical College (Biomedical Research).

CHRIS BOURNE

Chris Bourne is a 4th year PhD Candidate at Weill Cornell/Sloan-Kettering Institute. He received a BA in Biology and Spanish Literature from Swarthmore College. For his graduate work he studies cancer immunotherapy, aiming to use T cells to deliver drugs to tumors, and uncover novel immunotherapuetic targets. He is passionate about diversity in biomedical research and helps run programs and committees to improve recruitment, retention, and promotion of underrepresented students.

CHRYSTELLE VILFRANC

Chrystelle L. Vilfranc is a Brooklyn native who received her B.S. in Biochemistry from Oakwood University. She is a PhD candidate studying Cancer and Cell Biology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, where she focuses on the mechanisms involved in the protection of the liver against injury and subsequent chronic diseases, such as liver fibrosis and liver cancer. She is passionate about STEM Education reform, specifically the retention of black students in STEM fields. Chrystelle is the creator of #RevealToHeal, a writing series for women of color in STEM, done in collaboration with #VanguardSTEM. Though a cancer biologist in training and a champion for health education overall, Chrystelle is specifically committed to reproductive and mental health advocacy.

DR. DANIELLE TWUM

Hailing from Ghana, West Africa, Dr. Danielle Twum received her B.A. in Biology from Vassar College where she studied the effects of climate change on coral bleaching. Danielle received her PhD in Cancer Immunology from the University at Buffalo where she studied the immunology of breast cancer metastasis. She currently works as a Molecular Science Liaison at Caris Life Sciences. Dr. Twum is an AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador, an initiative aimed at increasing visibility of women in STEM as role models for young girls.

ELSHADDAI WHITE

Elshaddai White, a native of Franklin, Louisiana, is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biological Sciences and Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences from Louisiana State University in 2012 and a Master of Science degree in Biological Sciences from Jacksonville State University in 2014. His research focuses on adaptive stress mechanisms within the tumor microenvironment, explicitly investigating how serum deprivation primes tumor cells to adapt and survive hostile environments in prostate cancer. His long-term career goal is to become an independent investigator and continue research in cancer biology and, later, train and develop future minority cancer scientists while putting forth his best efforts to eradicate this disease.

JANAE SWEENEY

Janae Sweeney is a fourth-year Ph.D.  candidate, cancer biologist, and NIH/NIGMS RISE Program scholar in the Department of Biological Sciences and Center for Cancer Research & Therapeutic Development at Clark Atlanta University. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Shortly after, she received her Master of Science with an emphasis in Cellular Molecular Biology & Physiology from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. Janae’s dissertation research focuses on delineating the mechanistic role of manganese superoxide dismutase polymorphisms in prostate cancer progression. Upon completion of her doctoral program, she plans to return to her former teaching position at South Carolina State University, to continue her passion for helping students learn more about science, as it pertains to their own studies, research, and even medicine. Additionally, Janae strives to empower Black women to pursue careers in STEM and is currently developing a mentoring program to facilitate in those efforts.

DR. JAYE GARDINER

Dr. Jaye C. Gardiner is a cancer biologist and illustrator who is passionate about STEM education and increasing representation. She received her PhD in Cancer Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently completing her postdoctoral work at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA. There, she researches pancreatic cancer's tumor microenvironment with the hopes of understanding how the body's local environment communicates to support the tumor so future therapeutics may disrupt this communication. In addition to research, Jaye creates comics to make science more accessible and is an AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador.

KAELA MAKINS

Kaela Makins is a Senior at Hamilton College as a Miami Posse scholar, working toward earning her B.A. in Biology. She has dabbled in a few different research projects ranging from cancer research to microbiology, but finds that her strongest interest lies in genetic research, specifically with a focus in cancer and health disparities. Her thesis research focuses on studying the effects of lead toxicity on reproduction, behavior, and neurogenesis, as well as its impact on generational inheritance. Kaela is passionate about seeing inclusive STEM environments for Black and Brown students in the spaces that she involves herself in (and beyond). Kaela is the Head Co-Chair and Co-Founder of ROOTS, a Hamilton College organization focused on uplifting and supporting students of color interested in STEM focused concentrations and careers.

DR. KORIE GRAYSON

Dr. Korie Grayson is a biomedical engineer and a diversity advocate in STEM. She is a proud alumna of the HBCU Norfolk State University, where she earned her BS in Chemistry (2012). Korie obtained her MS (2017) and PhD (2020) in Biomedical Engineering from Cornell University where she defended her thesis, “Cellular Delivery of TRAIL to Treat Metastatic-Castration Resistant Prostate Cancer”, during the COVID-19 pandemic under Dr. Michael R. King. Currently, Korie is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan under the tutelage of Dr. Lola Eniola-Adefeso in Chemical Engineering. Her research focuses on the evaluation of novel nano- and microparticles for therapy in neutrophilic, acute inflammatory disease and cancer.

DR. KILAN ASHAD-BISHOP

Dr. Kilan C. Ashad-Bishop is a California-born biomedical scientist & change agent based in Miami, FL. She currently serves as a Postdoctoral Researcher in the University of Miami School of Education & Human Development and the Director of College Access for Breakthrough Miami. Kilan is an HBCU Grad (Morgan State University) & holds a PhD in Cancer Biology from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

RALPH WHITE III

Ralph White III is a 4th year PhD candidate in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He received his B.S in Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry from Furman University, where he studied the thermodynamics of the inhibition of High Mobility Group A proteins bound to AT rich DNA by Netropsin. Currently, his research is focused on evaluating the synergy of combination therapy involving select kinase inhibitors and the standard of care for Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer. In addition to his research, Ralph is involved in STEM outreach within the Twin Cities community, engaging all with his love of science.

ROLANDO LYLES

Rolando D.Z. Lyles is a 5th year PhD Candidate studying Cancer Biology at the University of Miami. He has dedicated his research career to studying prostate cancer which is the most frequently diagnosed and one of the most lethal cancers in black men worldwide. His thesis work is focused on identifying therapeutic vulnerabilities for uncurable castration-resistant prostate cancer through indirect antagonism of a constitutively active androgen receptor variant. Rolando is also a Posse National Scholar and has earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree in Bioengineering with minors in Mathematics and Engineering Entrepreneurship and Master of Biotechnology degree with a focus on Biopharmaceuticals/Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. His combined knowledge of the disciplines of biotechnology, biomedical engineering, and cancer philosophy has poised Rolando to serve as a pillar of information and knowledge to serve his community. As and after he completes his PhD, Rolando will create initiatives to make medical science knowledge more accessible and digestible to under-served communities.

DR. RUAN COX JR.

Dr. Ruan Cox, Jr is an immunologist and an advocate for the promotion of partnerships between biotech and industry. He earned his PhD in Molecular Medicine and Immunology from the University of South Florida College of Medicine where his research focused on supercharging immune function through the timely administration of resolution factors. Since leaving the bench he has dedicated his career to the effective development of strategic partnerships for acceleration of translational and clinical R&D efforts. He spent 5 years at the renowned Moffitt Cancer Center generating over $100 million in funding towards cancer research partnerships and now leads these efforts at the University of South Florida Technology Transfer Division as the Assistant Director of Business Development and Partnerships.

DR. WAYNE LAWRENCE

Dr. Wayne Lawrence is a Cancer Prevention Fellow at the National Institutes of Health. His research is devoted chiefly, but not exclusively, in the field of cancer epidemiology with an emphasis on minority and economically disadvantaged populations. Dr. Lawrence’s research integrates epidemiological, biological, environmental, and behavioral approaches to better understand cancer disparities across the continuum of care.

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