Call Me Doctor® Fellow LaToya McDonald Embarks on New Research Path
IBIOE Newsletter, Vol. 3, July 2012
Call Me Doctor® fellow LaToya McDonald was the first person in her family to go to college. Now, she’ll be the first person in her family to be called “Doctor”. McDonald began her journey to a PhD in July 2011 as she commenced her research with cancer cells and biomechanics under the mentorship of IBIOE collaborative researcher and Clemson University Bioengineering professor, Dr. Delphine Dean.
McDonald grew up in Columbia, SC, where she developed an early interest in engineering and math. By the time she was in ninth grade, she was taking senior calculus classes surrounded by all upperclassmen. “I loved math in high school and just always knew I wanted to be an engineer.” After high school, McDonald traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina to study at St. Augustine’s College where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering and Mathematics in May 2010.
It was there at St. Augustine’s College where McDonald became interested in the biomedical field when there she joined a group called the Minorities Accessing Research Careers Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (MARC*U*STAR) which is funded by the National Institutes of Health. She worked for two 10 weeks sessions, including one summer session at the University of South Carolina where she studied cryo preservation of deer mice oocytes, and another summer session at the University of Wisconsin where she helped develop and test properties of cancellous bone surrogates.
It was during these research experiences that she developed an interest in biomedical research. “I knew I wanted to do something that helped people and with bioengineering I said, ‘Yes, this is for me.’”
Participating in an IBIOE community service project or a K-12 project related to her studies is a component of the program that McDonald looks forward to most. During college, McDonald regularly volunteered to tutor children at a Mary E. Phillips High School, an alternative school in Raleigh, NC and she has volunteered many hours with KaBOOM!, a non-profit organization that builds playgrounds across the country for underprivileged neighborhoods. Community engagement activities are the icing on the cake. “I love community service. Anyone who knows me knows how I love giving back to the community.”As an IBIOE Call Me Doctor® fellow, McDonald now enters the next phase of her research environment and sees a bright future awaiting her. “I’m excited and nervous, but also eager to see what lies ahead for me.”