Student’s rise as a researcher takes her from law school in Brazil to an NIH lab
Sarah Izabel discovers a life-changing passion for neuroscience at VCU.
Sarah Izabel discovered Virginia Commonwealth University one frigid day when she just wanted to come in from the cold. Bundled up and shivering, she and a friend were walking near VCU in the winter of 2010 when they stumbled upon the University Student Commons and stepped inside to warm up. Izabel and her friend were both from Brazil, and were in the United States to improve their English and explore opportunities in the country. Unfamiliar with the area, they had never heard of VCU and didn’t understand what it was, but Izabel found herself immediately drawn to it.
“There were groups of people in there laughing and having a good time, and I thought, ‘Who are these people and what is this place?’” Izabel said.
Four years later, Izabel would remember the day when she was living in Richmond and pining to return to college. Izabel had gone home to Brazil for a spell but later decided to return to the U.S. By then a mother of a young son named Noah, Izabel had studied law at a college in Brazil, but ultimately decided the legal profession was not for her. She wanted to try college in the U.S. and find a better fit — she wanted to discover what her interests were. She enrolled at VCU with plans of pursuing a degree in criminal justice, figuring that best aligned with her previous studies and would be a natural place to restart her academic career.
In the years since, Izabel’s academic path has taken some surprising twists and turns, but the path has traveled steadily upward. She is now majoring in biology and psychology and minoring in chemistry with a concentration in life sciences in the College of Humanities and Sciences. Also a member of the Honors College, Izabel has unearthed a talent for scientific research that works in tandem with her natural doggedness to make her a formidable researcher. Although she doesn’t graduate until May 2020, Izabel has already earned a raft of prestigious research opportunities and won a variety of awards, grants and scholarships.
Perhaps most impressively, Izabel last year was selected for the National Institutes of Health Undergraduate Scholarship Program. The scholarship pays for Izabel’s final two years at VCU in return for her commitment to attend a 10-week training session at the NIH this summer and to work for the federal research center for two years following graduation.
Article by Tom Gresham, University Public Affairs
#Gratitude: Thanks for 33 great years, Dr. Gramling
Dr. Sandra "Sandy" Gramling joined the VCU faculty in 1986. 2019 was her last one at VCU. She will be deeply missed by her colleagues and students. She has amazing plans for retirement including hiking and plans to spend a lot of time at Richmond Hill. Sandy was a behavioral medicine researcher publishing in the areas of pain, sleep, stress management, religious coping, and coping with grief. Sandy has also been a stellar instructor of both graduate and undergraduate students. This past year alone, she taught more than 500 students! Perhaps her most enduring legacy here at VCU will be her stress and its management class, a course that consistently enrolled upwards of 120 students per section each semester. Given what we know about the importance of managing stress, including and perhaps especially among college-age folks, the course served several key purposes. First, it offered a scientific foundation for understanding how the topic was studied. As well, though, it provided a strong education on how one can learn to manage one’s stress. And Sandy was a terrific guide. She literally wrote the book on stress and its management! Al Farrell, a long-time colleague, shared that she was once approached at King’s Dominion by a costumed figure there who wanted to thank her for the class. Her commencement speech focused on gratitude, a fitting theme, as we are all grateful for her years of service and friendship here at VCU. Good luck in the next chapter, Sandy!
VCU psychology professor edits special journal issue on disability and social justice in rehabilitation research.
A special issue of the journal Rehabilitation Psychology edited by a Virginia Commonwealth University psychology professor explores disability and social justice in rehabilitation research.
Paul B. Perrin, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, director of VCU’s health psychology doctoral program and associate editor of the journal, a quarterly peer-reviewed publication that is dedicated to the advancement of the science and practice of rehabilitation psychology.
The special issue features 13 articles on diversity and social justice in disability research that focus on themes of critical disability identity theory, discrimination and prejudice, and health disparities in the context of disability.
Article by Brian McNeill, University Public Affairs
Baldacci Fund recipient heads to Ghana to study sleep quality.
Between 2015 and 2017, 624 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets were distributed, mostly for free, to reduce malaria, severe disease and death in regions of the world where malaria is endemic.
The nets, which serve as a protective barrier for the people sleeping under them, have been proven to help prevent the spread of malaria, a disease that saw 219 million cases and 435,000 deaths in 2017, according to the World Health Organization.
Yet research shows that households that own insecticide-treated nets, often referred to as ITNs, do not always use them.
This summer, Virginia Commonwealth University student Sarah Yankson, a junior in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, will travel to Ghana to work on a pilot study investigating sleep quality under insecticide-treated nets, which could help explain why Ghanaians do not consistently use them.
Photo by Brian McNeill, University Public Affairs
Psychology student is first at VCU to receive a Newman Civic Fellowship.
Nauje Jones, a psychology major in the College of Humanities and Sciences, has long had a passion for service and a keen interest in public health. She participated in a host of community projects during her initial years as a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, especially through her membership in ASPiRE, the university’s living-learning program focused on community engagement. Still, it wasn’t until Jones became the first VCU student to receive a Newman Civic Fellowship that she found a way to direct her energies in a way that satisfied her.
The fellowship recognizes and supports community-engaged students at institutions that are members of the Campus Compact, a coalition of colleges and universities committed to the public purpose of higher education. As part of the fellowship, Erin Burke Brown, Ph.D., director of ASPiRE, served as a mentor for Jones, meeting with her regularly this academic year to discuss her career and service interests. Jones shared that she wanted to become a nurse practitioner who specializes in women’s health in low-income urban communities. Brown soon arranged a meeting for Jones with Candace Johnson, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor in the VCU School of Nursing. When Johnson first met Jones, she could tell the undergraduate student was intelligent and driven. She also could see that Jones was “a researcher in the making.”
“She had a philosophical approach that made me think she would be great for community-engaged research,” Johnson said. “She was an out-of-the box thinker who was very interested in doing something that would be impactful.”
Photo by Kevin Morley, University Marketing