Because Of Them We Can
By BOTWC Staff
Carcia Carson is a native of Terry, Mississippi who earned her Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Jackson State University (JSU). She went on to continue her studies at Fisk in their Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program, obtaining her master’s in physics as well. Now she has made history as the first Black woman to receive a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Vanderbilt, crediting JSU and their faculty members with inspiring her to pursue her studies through the Fisk-Vanderbilt program and for helping develop her work ethic, training, and her ability to network with key stakeholders. Carson said she is honored to have achieved such a historic milestone.
“I am honored to become the first to accomplish this feat. I look forward to diversifying my industry and continuing the discussion of representation in high-level research environments,” said Carson.
She plans to focus her work on the professional research component, centering on translational research in cancer vaccines and immunotherapy. Carson was inspired to go into this particular sector after navigating her grandmother’s personal experience with cancer in which she underwent an immunotherapy clinical trial. Carson said the work was personal for her because she wants to make sure her research bridges the information gap for people in her community and family dealing with cancer.
“Translational research is more likely to impact the treatment of cancer patients directly. That’s what I want to do. I want to have a direct hand in the treatment of cancer patients…I want to directly impact cancer patients with the hopes to improve the lives of people living with cancer,” said Carson.
Though her journey was not without its fair share of challenges, Carson found refuge in Black women mentors from other departments and was thankful for the support she received from the faculty at Vanderbilt. In her commencement address, she encouraged Vanderbilt’s faculty to continue taking a chance on all of their students, regardless of what prior institution they come from and what level of research they’ve already accomplished.
Her goal is to continue advancing her medical research, eventually securing her MBA degree and one day becoming a director of oncology. It is her hope that other young graduates will also maximize their educational opportunities, encouraging them to utilize all available resources, ask questions, and allow their professional connections to inform their pathway.