I'm a PhD candidate at NYU Biology working with Dr. Enrique Rojas. I am broadly interested in the question of how biological form is created and what makes the shapes of life possible. I believe residing at the interface between biology and physics will provide an avenue to derive fundamental principles on life.
I am from Uganda and growing up, I aspired to be a scientist. However, I had never met a scientist in Uganda, and witnessed barely any representation of black scientists in general. Fortunately, I had access to media and books, as well as amazing science teachers, that championed scientific wonder and exploration. Not least of all, inspiration from the overwhelming biodiversity present in everyday life in Uganda was a continuous source of fascination and wonder. The clearest path was to pursue a rigorous scientific education including at the prestigious United World College on the Adriatic.
Eventually, I came to the United States for college at the University of Richmond. As a freshman, I was passionate about studying the science of life. I found mentorship working with Dr. Rafael De Sa on the evolution of frogs in the Americas. Perhaps just as importantly as his scientific mentorship, he was open about his life as a gay man married happily to his husband. As a gay person, it was validating and motivating to witness a successful LGBTQ scientist and imagine a more accepting future.
Eventually I sensed that the traditional biology major curriculum was not enough to capture the full science of life. I had studied some physics and mathematics and this gave me insight into the power of quantitative methods and theory in explaining phenomena at a more encompassing level. Dr. Omar Quintero, a talented Black scientist with expertise in cell biology, guided me to a summer research experience in quantitative and computational biosciences at UCLA with Dr. Roy Wollman. This was my first time at a big research institute and it was a transformative experience, not only in helping me understand the connection between the quantitative sciences and biology, but also in providing a practical career trajectory for a future in science.
Currently, I am in my fourth year of my PhD, working with Dr. Enrique Rojas (Rico) on the biophysics of tip growing cells. Initially, I was unfamiliar with these organisms and the field in general but I was drawn to the questions. As a mentor, Rico embodies an interdisciplinary approach merging physics into biological contexts, a physics of life approach. I have found it challenging and rewarding to apply cross-disciplinary thinking from continuum mechanics and cell biology towards my project on explaining the fundamental basis for constraints in the cell morphology of tip growing cells across plants, fungi, protists and bacteria. This work has culminated in a first author manuscript that is now under review and will be published soon. I continue to be fascinated by the microscopic and exploratory world of mycelial tip growing organisms.
Outside the bench, I am passionate about representation in science and participate in affinity groups like BlackinSTEM at NYU. I have had fulfilling experiences mentoring undergraduate students in the SURP program as well as third graders at a science after school program in New York. I aim to pay forward the opportunities that I have been given.