Faculty Spotlight

Cherilynn Reynolds Shadding, PhD

Assistant Professor of Genetics
Director of Outreach, McDonnell Genome Institute
Interim Director of Diversity, DBBS

B.A. (Biology), Fisk University
M.A. (Biology), Fisk University
Ph.D. (Physiology), Meharry Medical College

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Washington University DBBS team?
By far what I enjoy the most about my time and work at WashU is working with the students. I’ve been fortunate to establish three NIH funded programs that focus on diversity in STEM, an issue for which I care very deeply (sometimes too much). But I’ve been given a lot of freedom to do what I enjoy and to make change that I hope will last beyond these grants and beyond my career at WashU.

What are your research interests? What are your research goals?
My research focuses on diversity in STEM and efforts to enhance the diversity of the biomedical workforce. Specifically, I am interested in the assessment of interventions utilized to increase and retain underrepresented minorities (URM) in STEM fields. My goal is to establish best practices in these areas for effective outcomes and efficient operation of STEM outreach programs.

How has your time at Washington University helped further your research goals?
I came to WashU as a bench scientist. And that’s all I knew was science and teaching. As a grad student I thought I would take the then traditional route until I became involved in outreach. I had the opportunities to do outreach and teach as a graduate student where I worked in a middle school and conducted hands-on experiments and created lesson plans for 7th and 8th graders in Nashville and I loved it. Since I wasn’t brave enough to tell my parents I wanted to teach middle school, I went on to do two postdocs and I thought I was headed to becoming a professor at a primarily undergraduate institution. I didn’t know that being director of outreach was a thing and I certainly wasn’t aware of research opportunities within outreach and STEM diversity. So being here helped me develop in an area that I didn’t know existed and helped me create a path where I can live out some of my passions every day.

What is your favorite part about living in St. Louis?
I’m from St Louis but St. Louis changed a lot from when I grew up here and is still changing. So I enjoy going to new places (or new to me). But for sure my favorite thing to do is to hang out in Forest Park, whether for an event, or taking my son to the playground or just for a walk. I also just enjoy having my family nearby.

What hobbies do you enjoy?
My recent hobby apparently is building massive train track designs with my son that look more like roller coasters. I don’t know if I have hobbies per se, but when I have time I enjoy reading (typically non-fiction, but recently more fiction), writing (one day I’ll finish my creative non-fiction writing certificate from U College) and cooking (not the daily boring cooking; but cooking for gatherings or recipes that I make up in my head).

What is your favorite quote?
"I am a human being; nothing human can be alien to me." – Terence. I first heard this quoted by Maya Angelou when she was the keynote speaker at a conference I attended. So this for sure is one of the more treasured moments in my professional life.

What is the most ridiculous fact you know?
Not sure but I'm certain it has something to do with the length of the human genome and comparing it to the height of the St. Louis Arch or how many years it would take to read our genome in volumes of books.

Who is your biggest role model?
My mother. She was my toughest critic and my biggest supporter and she often made miracles happen with very little.

What advice would you give to both prospective and current graduate students?
While I give individualized advice on a regular basis to many students, one piece of advice I give to all is summed up in three words: READ, READ, READ! I don’t think students do this enough. My general life advice: Live YOUR life. Own YOUR life. Don’t settle. Make life better for someone else.

Fellowships, awards, and publications while at Washington University:
I have recently published data from one of the programs that I created, Opportunities in Genomics Research that I run at the McDonnell Genome Institute. My goal is to publish data from every program I direct.

Whittington, D, Wallace, LE, Shadding, CR. Proxies for Success: How the Application Process Correlates to PhD Pursuit for a Small Diversity Research Program. SAGE Open 2017: 7(3)

R, Whittington, D, Wallace, LE, Wandu, WS, Wilson, RK, Cost-effective recruitment strategies that attract underrepresented minority undergraduates who persist to STEM doctorates. SAGE Open 2016: 6(3)

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