Diversity Program Alumni Updates: Diedra Wrighting, Ph.D.

Dr. Diedra Wrighting Headshot 

Diedra Wrighting became intrigued with science during a high school biology class. Wrighting recalls being excited when she learned that one of her class assignments was to dissect a cat.

"I enjoyed biology because I had a natural aptitude for learning all of the body parts, and my teacher made science fun," she said.

After high school, Wrighting entered the City College of San Francisco where she participated in the Bridges to the Baccalaureate program. That program helped her transition to Howard University where she entered as a pre-med biology major.

On the path to becoming a medical doctor, Wrighting's senior year courseload included a laboratory-based class that allowed her to design and execute experiments to attack disease-based problems such as malaria. It was this course that caused her to entertain the idea of becoming a researcher.

"Being able to discover things about malaria that could help someone afflicted with the disease meant a lot to me. I knew then that I didn't just want to treat diseases; I wanted to prevent people from getting them," Wrighting said.

After receiving her bachelor's degree in biology, Wrighting went on to graduate school at San Francisco State University. At the university, she participated in the Bridges to the Doctorate program, and the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement program the following year. Wrighting explained that these two programs were critical to her successful transition to an academic research path.

"Without the support of these programs, I would have had to seek outside employment, making working in the laboratory and keeping up with coursework challenging," she said.

The programs also provided Wrighting with mentors who knew the territory and the road ahead, which enabled them to give her valuable guidance.

"My mentors taught me how to take initiative, solve problems, read and write scientific papers, and design better experiments. It was a blessing to have people who pushed me and helped me to set goals and standards for myself. Their guidance provided the basis for how I do things today."

Wrighting recalled that when she applied to Harvard Medical School, several months passed without word about her application.

"I just figured that I didn't get into Harvard," she said.

Wrighting's mentors were very supportive; encouraging her to be assertive and to find out why she hadn't been notified by the school. She asked her program director for assistance in getting a response from Harvard. "He took that extra step for me," Wrighting said.

It turned out that her application had been misplaced. Shortly thereafter, Wrighting received her acceptance phone call from Harvard.

"If I hadn't followed my mentor's advice, I would never have attended Harvard," Wrighting said.

Wrighting was a postdoctoral fellow at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard where her research focused on medical and population genetics. She studied genetic variation that predisposes people to disease--specifically Type II diabetes. Today, she is the student research training manager at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

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