Profiles of Excellence, in their own words...

Terra D. Irons, Ph.D.

Posted: March 7th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: students | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Where are you from?
Hampton, VA
Where are you currently?
I work in Washington, DC and live in Alexandria, VA.
What year did you graduate?
What was your major?
Do you have any advanced degrees?
Ph.D. in Toxicology
What are you currently doing (professionally)?
Toxicologist, Post-Deployment Health, Department of Veterans Affairs
I consult with Congress on environmental exposures experienced during deployment that may cause long-term illness/injury.
How would you describe DNIMAS to someone who doesn’t know about the program?
DNIMAS is a full scholarship program that aims to prepare minorities to get advanced degrees in STEM fields. It includes a rigorous curriculum and peer tutoring and mentoring, and it also emphasizes summer research both on and off campus.
How did DNIMAS help you get to where you are?
Being a part of such a prestigious program has definitely impacted my life. I was able to participate in a summer research program at the University of North Carolina that had taken many students from DNIMAS before me. That summer research experience enabled me to gain acceptance to their graduate program in Toxicology, one of the most heralded in that field in the country, where I published in the scientific peer-reviewed literature and presented my research both nationally and internationally.
How did DNIMAS help you non academically/professionally?
DNIMAS exposed me to being a part of a community, which taught me to help others even when there is nothing in it for me.
What activities did you participate in when you weren’t studying?
(Is this a REAL question, Doug???) LOLOLOL…. I tutored for STARS… does that count?
What was your favorite DNIMAS memory?
My favorite memory is when DSA threw a costume party that spanned half of the 3rd floor in Lee Smith. We got in trouble ofcourse, but it was definitely a lot of fun!
What did you least like about DNIMAS?
What I liked least about DNIMAS was the added pressures put on students to perform once funding issues increased (e.g. curriculum changes, GPA requirements, peer tutoring/mentoring). Although I understand why this happened, I think that it was counterproductive in a lot of ways, and retention seemed to suffer. I think that, instead, recruitment efforts should have been strengthened to make sure that the caliber of incoming freshmen remained the same from year-to-year.
What do you think would be different about your life if you weren’t in DNIMAS?
A lot because I wouldn’t know how to ask for help, and no matter where you want to go in life, you can’t get there on your own.
Do you still keep in contact with people from DNIMAS?
Yes, I met some of my best friends in/through DNIMAS. I also keep in contact with DNIMAS and STARS faculty on a regular basis.
What advice could you pass on to current DNIMAS scholars?
DON’T GIVE UP! Through all the challenges and frustrations, if you can teach yourself to be disciplined enough to see it through, it will be one of the most valuable experiences of your life.