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The Biomedical and Biological Sciences Program (BBSP) welcomed a new class of PhD students to Chapel Hill this week for orientation.

The Biomedical and Biological Sciences Program (BBSP) welcomed a new class of PhD students to Chapel Hill this week for orientation.

The class of 93 students was selected from nearly 1,300 applicants. Those 93 outstanding students come from 75 universities across the United States and the world. There are seven countries represented and 25 percent of the class comes from groups historically underrepresented in the biosciences.

Through the BBSP program, the students will spend their first year rotating through multiple labs before ultimately deciding on one of the 14 BBSP member PhD programs, and the lab where they will complete their thesis.

We caught up with several students on their first day of orientation to discuss their individual research interests and the paths that led them to Carolina.

Chappell Danielle Chappell who completed her undergraduate training at Ohio State University, called UNC ‘a perfect fit.’

“UNC has such a wide range of outstanding scientists, which offers lots of opportunities for me as a student. I want to learn as much as I can, ask, and answer the critical questions. Everyone I have met here has been so eager and enthusiastic and from the start it just seemed like the right place for me.”

Martinez Nicholas Martinez is a graduate of the University of Kansas and spent six years as an elementary school teacher before deciding to pursue a career in biomedical research.

“I lost my mother to cancer when I was 14 and following that experience I always thought I might like to pursue a career in medical research. But, I didn’t really think that was a legitimate possibility. I didn’t know how to do it; I didn’t know anyone who was a scientist. But, eventually I began taking some classes at night, got my foot in the door with research and decided to apply to graduate school. What separates UNC from many other places are the resources available to students, specifically the opportunities for internships in private research settings.

Hinton Andrew Hinton is originally from Portsmouth, VA, and began his career as a shipbuilder before completing undergraduate work in applied mathematics and a graduate coursework in modeling simulation. In 2008, Hinton’s daughter was diagnosed with severe food allergies, which ultimately motivated him to switch his path.

“In my spare time, I was trying to build a predictive model to understand why some individuals achieve better results during trials and therapies than others. I mentioned my research during a visit to my daughter’s allergist. She told me her mentor was Dr. Wesley Burks and suggested I email him. One night I sent an email not really expecting a response, but he got back in touch with me, one thing led to another, I had the opportunity to come down and visit UNC, and now here I am.”

Mariya Mariya Popova is originally from Kazakhstan and did her bachelors and masters training in Russia. During her master’s program, she was granted to opportunity to conduct research as a visiting research scholar at UNC. She spent six months working in the lab of Alexander Tropsha, PhD, Associate Dean for Pharmacoinformatics and Data Science at the UNC Eschelman School of Pharmacy.

“I spent six months here as a visiting scholar. I enjoyed the environment and the community and so I decided to apply here for graduate school. I was impressed by the scope of research opportunities available here. And I definitely prefer the climate.”

Hamilton Alina Hamilton graduated from UT-Pan American with a degree in biology. By the time she finished her master’s degree, the school had merged with another UT branch, creating UT-Rio Grande Valley. During her master’s program, Hamilton worked in a research lab focused on investigating the different factors that can alter the onset of puberty in females. She’s excited to be at UNC where she plans to focus on toxicology.

“When I was applying to schools, this was the one where it was easiest to see myself. I’m very excited to start science in a new place. But, beyond science, the school and the area have so many resources. It feels like this program really supports the students.”