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Luisel Ricks-Santi

Luisel "Lulu" Ricks-Santi was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico and was raised in the small, southern coastal town of Salinas, PR. Being a military child, she traveled and moved between Puerto Rico and various US cities. She has always been eagen to learn and to achieve her best. She is passionate about cancer research and analyzing the health disparities concerning African Americans.

Question 1: What’s your educational background?

  September 2014 Edition  



I received my Bachelors of Science in Molecular Biology from Hampton University in 2000 and my PhD in Tumor Biology from Georgetown University in 2007.

Question 2: What has been your career path to this point?

Currently, I am the Director of the Hampton University Cancer Research Center. During graduate school at Georgetown, I worked in the lab and learned molecular biological techniques that have been useful up until now. Immediately following graduate school, I was recruited to Howard University as a post-doctoral fellow to hone my skills in cancer disparities research. There, I investigated the biology of why African Americans were at higher risk for breast and prostate cancer. While at Howard, I also became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics in the Medical School. I taught biochemistry, cancer genetics, and cancer biology. My most rewarding experience at Howard was mentoring. At the National Human Genome Center at Howard, I mentored untless of students who went on to medical school, get their PhDs and even finish their PhDs and enter the workforce.

Question 3: What are some of the challenges you've faced in your career?

Going through graduate school was one of the most challenging aspects of my life thus far. The classes were very difficult although I fared well in most of them. Thankfully, I was part of a very supportive program at Georgetown who helped me get through the didactic part of my PhD. The Dissertation part of graduate school was a lot easier because I was in my element. I’ve always enjoyed being in the lab and was always a good technician.

Question 4: What motivates you to excel?

Growing up, I was always an ambitious and precocious child; I just always wanted to excel in everything that I did including education and sports. Now what motivates me is family. I want to do well in life for them.

Question 5: What's one thing you wish you could tell your 16 year old self?

Boys will always be there so focus on your schooling.

Question 6: What's the best piece of advice you have received?

People who love you will never intentially hurt you.

Question 7: What advice do you have for women who want to follow in your footsteps?

Hard work does pay off.

Question 8: What's your plan for the next 5 years?

To build a state-of-the-art Cancer Research Center at Hampton University. As the founding Director, it is my job to establish the mission and vision for the Center. So for the next 5 years I will focus on the setting the direction for the Center.

Question 9: What's your definition of success?

Being happy with what you are doing now and in life.

Question 10: How are you empowering young girls and women in your environment?

As I mentioned above, one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had is being given the opportunity to mentor young people. As a professor at Hampton University, I like to serve as an example for the next generation and show them it doesn’t matter if you’re a first generation or fourth generation college graduate. We all have the same opportunities at Hampton can all equally excel in life. We just have to see the opportunities, take advantage of them, and be ready to receive what’s always been in store for us.

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