Karla Fuller

New York, NY, US
Field of Work 
City University of New York
Job Title or "Student" 
Assistant Professor
Stella and Charles Guttman Community College
Biological Sciences with a concentration in Cancer Biology
Education Level 
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!
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.
Evenings, Weekdays
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 

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