Karla Fuller

New York, NY, US
Field of Work 
Biology
Company 
City University of New York
Job Title or "Student" 
Assistant Professor
Education 
Stella and Charles Guttman Community College
Degree 
Biological Sciences with a concentration in Cancer Biology
Education Level 
PhD
Profile Biography 
I have always wanted to be a scientist. In elementary school, my mom had an administrative position in a University of Oklahoma Chemistry Lab. She brought me to work with her often and the graduate students in the lab let me hang around and watch them do their thing. I fell in love with it! Case in point: my Second grade science project was a demonstration in colorimetry. In high school, because I had a really great biology and chemistry teacher, I became interested in drug discovery and disease treatment. I began to consider a career in biochemistry.

After high school graduation, I left my home state of Oklahoma on a full academic scholarship to major in Biology at Texas Southern University (a mid-size HBCU in Houston, Texas). My first summer research project was in a pathobiology lab and I decided then and there I wanted to be a biologist and study diseases. The research opportunities I had during the rest of my college career helped me focus my attention on cancer research. After four years of education (both academic and social), I migrated north to Purdue University and spent the next six years obtaining my Ph.D. in Cancer Biology.

During my time at Purdue, I got my first taste of teaching. I started off as a teaching assistant and eventually taught my own summer courses. I also became active in recruiting and retaining students of color through several university-sponsored programs. I found teaching to be exhilarating. Being in the classroom was definitely a challenge, but it was also extremely rewarding. These combined experiences helped me realize I had a passion for improving educational access and opportunities for students of color. I also began to consider a career in college teaching (previously, I was pretty devoted to pursuing a career in cancer research).

After getting my Ph.D., I accepted a post-doctoral appointment at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at a research facility in Smithville, TX. I continued my cancer research, but also had the opportunity to become a formal mentor to first-year graduate students of color. I also - finally! - got to design and teach my own course. It turns out, I was extremely good at both of these things! Most importantly, I began to see how important it is for students of color and female students to have mentors who look like them. I also began to notice how hard it was to find that synergy in the STEM fields. Through many conversations with my very supportive research mentor, I started to look for opportunities elsewhere that would allow me to foster these new-found talents. Although I understood that this likely meant saying goodbye to my dreams of curing cancer (maybe for just a little while, maybe forever), I knew that I would feel more fulfilled if I charted a new career course.

My search led me to Bellevue College - in Bellevue, WA (a suburb of Seattle) - where I became the Program Manager of the Science and Math Institute. This was a brand new program with a mission to increase the number of students majoring in STEM and entering STEM career fields. I also had the opportunity to create and teach a course called Cancer Biology to students in the new Dosimetry degree program. It was kismet! All of my passions - teaching, mentoring, educational access and cancer research - in one place! In addition, I got to travel the state of Washington touting the awesomeness of science and math to kids from kindergarten to college. It seemed like a perfect fit.

Then, life happened. My family found ourselves -quite abruptly- living in Jersey City, NJ. But, it must have been fate! One year later, I joined a group of visionary thinkers in the New Community College Initiative (now Stella and Charles Guttman Community College) in 2010 as the first founding faculty member with the project. Again, I found a place where I could combine my passions. Because of the student population in New York City, I find myself working mostly with students of color, many of whom have told me that I am the first black scientist they've ever met! I absolutely love teaching at a college where we are working as an institution to remove the barriers of higher education for historically underserved students.

Even though we are still at the beginning of our journey, I am hopeful about what we have begun to create here at GCC. It is a privilege to work with such a diverse student population, including many first generation college students. I hope to continue my mission of increasing the number of students in STEM fields by being a role model of what students can achieve!
Interests 
Writing/blogging, Dance, Reading, Travel, Sports, Other
Race & Ethnicity 
Black or African American
Level of Participation 
After-school visit, In-school visit, Online role model, Summer camp visit
My Experience 
I have been a Role Model 3-4 times.
Availability 
Evenings, Weekdays
Resources 
Career exploration activities, Field trip hosting, Fun demonstrations or materials, Hands-on activities for students, Identifying other role models
Program Affiliation 
Girl Scouts
Other Interests 
yoga

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