Be strong. Be unafraid. It is perfectly okay to be you. You are needed in the STEM field.

Who is Diva Whalen?

I am Diva Whalen from Clinton, Mississippi. I am proud Mississippian and also the first in my family to obtain my PhD in biomedical sciences. I study an aggressive form of breast cancer called Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I study this cancer because it mainly affects women of color like me. My main goal for studying this cancer is to educate ALL women about healthier choices that can help prevent cancers because healthier women equal a healthier world.

Educational Background

Art of Science Communication (American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology ASBMB)

Special Awards

– Best Overall Poster Presentation MeTRC Health Disparities National Conference, Best Overall Poster Presentation Meharry Medical College Student Research Day, 3rd place in poster presentation R(esearch) C(enters in) M (inority) I(nstitutions) conference, 2nd place in poster presentation for 1st year Ph.D. students Meharry Medical College Research

Specialized Training/Education

Art of Science Communication (American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology ASBMB)

How did you choose to pursue this field?

I chose to pursue the cancer field because I have always been dedicated to a healthier community. I am from Mississippi and we are one of the unhealthiest states especially when we take a closer look at the African American population of the state. I study cancer biology because I know that if there are African American scientists and doctors that can help shape health education, policy, and treatments we can reduce our rates of cancer and improve our overall survival.

Who was your inspiration or role model that guided you to this field?

There are many women who inspired me to pursue a Ph.D. but if I had to choose just one role she would be Dr. Walker. She was one of my professors at Tougaloo College. She is supportive of my dreams and one of the reasons why I want to be a college professor.

Did you always have the desire to work in this field? If not, what was your intended field? Why did you change careers?

I have always desired to be an educator but I always loved science. Once I started at Tougaloo College, I was able to see the love of educating and science work hand in hand; so pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences was just a natural part of my career progression.

What do you love most about your job?

Well, currently, I am not in my career. I am still completing my Ph.D. thesis. However, after graduation, I plan on becoming a professor of biology and biochemistry which will be my ultimate career goal.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your job or career?

My most awarding experience is being a breast cancer awareness speaker during the breast cancer awareness month, October.

What things would you change about your job?

Since I am still in my Ph.D. studies, I wish I had more opportunities to teach undergraduate students. Because my institution is not connected to an undergraduate institution, I do not have to opportunity to connect with the population I wish to serve.

What has been the most difficult or disappointing aspect of your job?

The most difficult aspect of my career thus far is the failed experiments.

How have you combated the stigma of being a “woman of color” in STEM?

I have combated the stigma of being a “woman of color” in STEM by walking in own uniqueness. I remember that there is always someone looking up to me and I must continue to move in that thought.

What tips would you offer for anyone thinking about entering into your profession?

I would advise anyone thinking about pursuing a Ph.D. to do your research in the science area you want to pursue. I would also tell them don’t be too hard on yourself through the process. There will be many people who seem up against you already so don’t add yourself to that count. The last thing I would advise is to have fun. Just because you are in school does not mean your social life stops. The school will be over sooner rather than later so enjoy your life always.

What advice would you give your younger self about your career journey as a “woman of color” working in a predominantly white, male-dominated field?

My advice I would get to my younger self is to know that your voice is just as important and maybe even more important. You, as a woman of color, have a unique and amazing perspective in research. You will have a connection to the population you are serving because there is usually a health disparities component if you are doing health research.

Can you provide some words of wisdom to young ladies thinking about entering a STEM field as a career choice?

Be strong. Be unafraid. It is perfectly okay to be you. You are needed in the STEM field.

What is your favorite Quote? How do you apply this to your life?

“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a a desire, a dream, and a vision. They have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” – Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali’s quote is one of my favorite quotes because I am a competitor. This quote reminds me to compete only with myself by having a clear vision and dream for my future.

What are your future goals related to your career?

My future goals include becoming a college professor and a science communicator.

How has your family influenced your journey and provide support?

My parents are the most supportive people ever. They never stifled my dreams. For example, I used to play teacher with my stuffed teddy bears and dolls. They played along as the principals or teacher assistants. My younger brother who will be a doctor of physical therapy and my younger sister who will be a biostatistician also used to play along as a student in my weekend classes. My family has always been in my corner. They are a pillar that will forever be a part of my life.

What are some interesting facts about yourself that you would like to share?

I am a softball player. I am a lady of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. I am very involved with my college alumni network (Tougaloo College).

Contact Diva Whalen for any further questions:

IG: diva_futurephd

LinkedIn: Diva Whalen

We hope you enjoyed learning about our latest “STEMsation”, please comment about how her experiences have inspired you, how your experiences can inspire others and nominate our next “STEMsation to spotlight their amazing accomplishments.


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