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R.I.S.E. Seminar Series

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences-Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (R.I.S.E.) Program Seminar Series focuses on bringing eminent scientific knowledge to WSSU.  The seminar series has been vital in stimulating the interest of students and intellectual environment of the science disciples at WSSU. The symposium has also provided an important platform for students and faculty to present their research findings to the WSSU community. This is ideal in enhancing opportunities for our scholars concerning summer research, graduate and post-baccalaureate programs.

James Byers


James C. Byers II, FSCP
- Investment Advisor Representative, Byers Wealth Strategies

As a Financial Planner, I help individuals, couples and families grow their assets for the long term. I take this mission very seriously and work closely with my clients in order to recommend the appropriate products and services to help achieve their unique goals. I have the skills, knowledge and experience to match your investment portfolio with your risk tolerance, time horizon and investment objectives, while also suggesting alternatives to help protect your assets.

Samantha-Rae Dickenson, EdD, MPH - Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Career Lead, National Institute of Health

A study exploring the ways in which experiencing microaggressions effects Black women in the workplace. This study also provides ways to create an inclusive work environment. In this role, I identify and eliminate barriers in the outreach, recruitment, and employment of Black/African American employees, and work to build an inclusive workplace where employees can actively use their talents and contribute to the success of the NIH.

Samantha Rae Dickerson

RAyonna Gordon


Rayonna Gordon
- Biomedical Engineering Program, Wake Forest University, Virginia Tech School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences

Collaborate with technical and medical professionals in multiple countries to create a novel mobile system to enhance medical equipment efficiency, productivity, and documentation in deprived medical facilities around the world. Coordinated and analyzed the successful implementation of the developed system in sub-Saharan Africa to evaluate its systematic and financial ability to be transferred globally.

Gioia Massa, PhD - John F. Kennedy Space Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Gioia Massa is a NASA scientist at Kennedy Space Center in Florida working on food production for the International Space Station (ISS) and future exploration endeavors. She led the science team for the Veggie hardware validation on ISS and she heads an interdisciplinary group to study fertilizer and light impacts on nutrition and flavor of Veggie-grown crops.

In addition to Veggie she helps with science needs for other space station hardware and works with external investigators to get their science to function on the station. She also is involved with education and outreach programs related to plants in space. Gioia became interested in growing plants in space in an agriculture class when she was 12 years old.

She has a BS in Plant Science from Cornell University (with a wonderful semester at University of Tasmania in 1994), a PhD in Plant Biology from Penn State, and postdoctoral research from Purdue University. Her work has spanned the spectrum of plant space biology and bioregenerative life support.  Her goal is to give the future residents of the habitat of Mars a better quality of life, where they will be able to enjoy the sight, smell, taste, and nutrition of green growing plants. Her passion is to enable NASA’s grand challenge of space colonization as humanity transitions from a planet-bound to a spacefaring civilization.

Gioia Massa
Doris Molina Henry

Doris Molina-Henry, PhD - Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, Winston-Salem State University

Doris Molina-Henry completed her PhD in the department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at Wake Forest University, Health Sciences. Her doctoral studies focused on the effect of trophic factors on age-related changes in the brain. Specifically, she published studies of the effect of growth hormone on age-related changes in synaptic transmission. Upon completion of her studies she was awarded the RJR Leon Goldberg Post-doctoral Fellowship which enabled her to study the role of proton sensing receptors in renal function. She then became a PRIME-IRACDA scholar at Wake Forest University, Health Sciences, where she performed research on the mechanisms underlying alcohol withdrawal-induced seizures. As a PRIME-IRACDA scholar she taught as a guest lecturer for the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at WSSU, an opportunity which led her to join the physical therapy department at WSSU as full-time assistant professor.

Judith Ned, EdD - Diversity Outreach and Engagement Officer, Stanford Biosciences Office of Graduate Education

Fostering partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in graduate education, specifically the Biosciences. As an agent of change, Dr. Ned knows change happens by direct involvement in matters that impact the well-being of society. Her appreciation for and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion are the products of life experiences as a student, educator, administrator, community advocate, and citizen of this country. According to Dr. Ned, “various levels of representation of power, privilege, and identity are essential for overall systemic change.”

Judith Ned

Ashley Taylor


Ashley Taylor, PhD - Scientist II, Specialty Beauty, Johson & Johnson

A professional researcher with extensive experience analyzing techniques for product development in global consumer and academic fields. An experienced skincare formulation scientist with extensive knowledge leveraging and developing collaborative partnerships between research and development, marketing, packaging, quality assurance and consumers. Specific expertise includes scientific engagement between global consumers and R&D, high-level project management for production, formulation development for anti-aging skincare product, collaboration for the production of innovative concepts regarding mentorship and higher education, communications training for mentorship academies and application of product technologies, addressing mentorship gaps between prospective/developing students and professionals, and diversity recruitment at the academic and professional levels.