Khanichi Charles knows the value of mentoring. Without it, she wouldn’t have discovered her passion for scientific research, let alone apply to Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). So despite long hours in the lab working towards her Ph.D. in biological sciences, which she expects to earn in August, Charles makes time to be a role model for minority undergraduate students considering careers in science.

“As a minority student, you don’t have a lot of examples of people in research positions,” Charles said. “It’s not that you don’t think you’re capable of it; you just don’t see it as a possibility. It’s very important to me to be present and tell students ‘Don’t count yourself out.’”

Charles was introduced to research as a freshman at San Diego State University, where she was on the pre-med track. Through the federal Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) and Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) programs, Charles received not only funding that allowed her to spend more time in the lab pursuing biological research, but also an introduction to the life of a researcher, from conferences and poster presentations to publishing papers. The work fueled her scientific curiosity, particularly around metabolic diseases, and sent her career in a new direction. She has continued working with MBRS as a graduate student, returning each year to San Diego State to speak with current undergraduates in the program.

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