Oluwagbemisola Aderibigbe wants to clear a path for other scholars who want to follow in the footsteps of tried-and-true experience. With that in mind, she’s created and maintained an evolving guidebook to grad school on a website called PhD-ing Gracefully, where she offers telling glimpses into her own journey and helpful tips for other scholars on a similar path.
“I’ve always been motivated by helping others — performing tasks and activities that make life easier for other people. I’m very passionate about teaching and mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers,” said Aderibigbe, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and, now, a recipient of an NTT Research Foundation Fellowship to support the rest of her studies.
Aderibigbe’s website covers the range of issues and emotions graduate students experience: how to apply to grad school, what questions to ask when looking for a lab, dealing with imposter syndrome, and finding joy while handling the inevitable stress of pursuing an advanced degree. The site has connected her with people all over the world — which is one of her goals.
“I really enjoy helping students everywhere get into graduate school through mentoring or in other ways,” said Aderibigbe. And, as co-chair of the Education and Outreach committee for BBUGS, the Bioengineering and Bioscience Unified Graduate Students, at Georgia Tech, she works with K-12 students.
Throughout her teen and college years, Aderibigbe has been involved in volunteering, tutoring, and planning events designed to build interest in STEM fields among K-12 students. Her interest in this kind of work borders on the evangelistic: “Someday I hope to share my journey in front of thousands of girls and provide them with opportunities to excel in STEM.”
Aderibigbe currently is involved in two research projects around pediatric brain injuries. In one, she’s trying to identify the RNA biomarkers that drive neuroinflammatory responses following injury and discover ways to improve those responses. The other involves studying gait changes during the acute and chronic phases of brain injury.
“This research gives me the opportunity to utilize my basic science and engineering skills in identifying biomarkers for a disorder known to be a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in children,” said Aderibigbe, who is co-advised by Coulter BME Professor Susan Margulies and Levi Wood, associate professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. “It also gives me an opportunity to work with my favorite part of the body: the brain. I have been fascinated by the brain since I was a little scientist.”
That combination of research motivation, passion for community involvement, and demonstrated leadership helped land Aderibigbe the fellowship, which is sponsored by NTT Research, a Sunnyvale, California-based firm that conducts basic research and advances technologies “that promote positive change for humankind,” according to the company website.
The fellowship provides Aderibigbe with tuition, fees, books, supplies, and a living stipend, and is renewable until she earns the Ph.D. — after which, she hopes to combine all of her interests while pursuing a career in industry.
“I would love to continue advancing research by working in a biopharmaceutical or biotech company that focuses on the proper understanding and cure of life-threatening disorders,” she said. “And I’d love to combine this with some mentoring and teaching. Mainly, my hope is to continue impacting the lives of people.”