2014 Equity Intern: Kemi Akinnola

Akinnola_Oluwafunke_1_150Education has been a strong component in the life of Oluwafunke "Kemi" Akinnola. Her professors at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) describe Kemi as someone who seeks out opportunities to excel in her work academically and professionally.  After only one year into her college career, Kemi has demonstrated her strong "intellectual ability and quest for knowledge through research."

Kemi realized her interest in science in the tenth grade, and she worked very hard to solidify her knowledge. "I definitely struggled when I took Advanced Placement Chemistry in 11th grade," she says. "Yet despite how difficult the class was, it was one of my favorite classes because the topics interested me and I saw how chemistry applied in almost every aspect of day-to-day living."

With her growing interest in science and health, Kemi applied for and was accepted into the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at UMBC. The program is open to diverse, prospective undergraduate students who plan to pursue doctoral study in STEM fields, and are interested in the advancement of underrepresented minorities in those areas. Kemi explains how all Meyerhoff Scholars must go through an intensive, six-week bridge before their first year of college.

"During the summer, we took classes that challenged us to think in different ways, learn professional etiquette, tour research labs, and learn how to work in groups." She says that the summer bridge set the tone for her fast-paced academic programs.

Ready to continue down her path toward medical research, Kemi says she wants to "understand how biochemical processes work and use that scientific knowledge to advance the health of society." She is out to make contributions to the scientific community. "My eventual goal is to obtain an M.D./Ph.D. so that I can use my research to help others understand more about the human body and how it works."

This summer, Kemi has joined 17 other college students from across the nation in the Summer Equity Research Internship. The eight-week, full-time internship is sponsored by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and hosted at OHSU. Students work in research labs and will have the opportunity to present their findings at the end of the summer.

Kemi is working with Andrey Ryabinin, Ph.D., of the Behavioral Neuroscience department. Through her project, Kemi is focusing on developing treatment to curb alcohol intake by individuals with alcohol addiction. "We are working to figure out which area/s of the brain play a role in alcohol addiction," she says.

Kemi says that she is delighted about the opportunity to learn about what goes into the research process and what it's like to be in graduate school. "Getting research experience has definitely been the most relevant aspect to my career aspirations. Also, the lectures and seminars have been very helpful as well," she says.

To find out more about the Summer Equity Internship Program, contact David Martinez, Manager of Student Recruitment and Retention.

Posted on July 9, 2014. Write-up by Jillian Toda. Photo by Maileen Hamto.