Steven Damo, Chair of the Department of Life and Physical Sciences has been named a Chan Zuckerberg Science Diversity Leadership Awardee


NASHVILLE, TENN. (November 9, 2022)-  Fisk University is proud to announce that Dr. Steven Damo, Chair of the Department of Life and Physical Sciences and Interim Assistant Dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, has been named a Chan-Zuckerberg Science Diversity Leadership Awardee for his project titled “Structure-Function Studies of Metal Efflux in Group B Strep.” This esteemed award, one of just twenty-five in the country, honors exceptional contributions to 1) biomedical research and 2) diversity equity and inclusion.

This well-deserved honor is absolutely in line with Dr. Damo’s pivotal position at Fisk University. According to Dr. Brian Nelms, Dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Associate Professor of Biology and BMB, “This well-deserved recognition is absolutely in line with the critical role Dr. Damo has at Fisk University.  The award will support an exciting research program that will involve our talented students in excellent science.  Fisk University is a special place where students have always been able to reach for and find academic excellence, transforming themselves into leaders in their fields and communities.  This is often facilitated by close interactions with elite academic minds among the faculty.  Dr. Damo is a contemporary exemplar in a long and ongoing progression of dedicated faculty—from faculty that guided the Fisk students who went on to become the first African-American scientists to receive the Ph.D. in Chemistry and the first Ph.D. in Biological Sciences to faculty that opened up entire new fields of research to faculty who have established innovative modern programs in the current day. Through Dr. Damo’s mentoring and training of undergraduate and graduate students at Fisk University, whether in the research lab or the classroom, he continues to inspire and equip a diverse new generation of biomedical scientists who will make the world a better place.”

Dr. Damo says, “The most significant aspect of this incredible honor is that it honors the efforts of the many outstanding students I have had the privilege to work with over the past few years. I’m deeply humbled that they allowed me to play a small part in helping them achieve their dreams and guide their development as scientists.”

Dr. Damo in the lab with graduate student Storm Robertson and longtime collaborator Dr. Jennifer Gaddy (Vanderbilt University) analyzing data

Dr. Damo joined the Fisk University Faculty in 2013, after earning his PhD at UC Berkeley with Dr. David Wemmer, and Postdoctoral training at Weill Cornell Medical College with Dr. Hao Wu (now at Harvard University) and Vanderbilt University with Dr. Walter Chazin. He is a UC Berkeley Sloan Fellow, a member of the Senior Society of Ford Fellows, an adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and member of the Center for Structural Biology at Vanderbilt University. He is the PI of an NSF Excellence in Research Project (award #1955975), co-PI of the NSF funded Fisk Biological Signatures and Sensing Center (award #2112556), and PI of the NIH Fisk MARC U*Star Program (GM105551).

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Here is what some Damo Lab alumni had to share about their time at Fisk University:


DeJah S. Beasley

Current Role: M.D Candidate , American University of Antigua College of Medicine


As I reflect on the beginning of my academic career, I can proudly say that Fisk University played a part in cultivating me into the leader and scientist that I am today. Under the leadership of Dr Damo, who influenced many memorable moments in my career, I’ve gained appreciation and skill set that has not only helped me grow into a confident researcher but guided me throughout my medical school journey.  Due to his mentorship, I’ve been able to pave the way for others and will continue with my newfound platform. I am forever grateful for my time spent at Fisk University and with Dr. Steven Damo. I shall cherish my memories forever.


Isis Christopher

Current Role: K-2 Multilingual Learners/ Humanities Teacher Resident; Master’s student at Relay School of Education with a dual endorsement in Elementary Education and English as a Second Language.

I had the pleasure of being a member of the Damo lab at Fisk for the majority of my undergraduate career. Dr. Damo’s mentorship and guidance was intentional, direct, and absolutely pivotal in my success as an emerging black professional. Working in the Damo lab provided me with relevant and practical laboratory experience, opportunities to secure internships/apprenticeships, opportunity to be an active participant in the Fisk and broader scientific community, and opportunities to travel, network, and present my scientific findings. Dr. Damo was not only an impactful P.I. but also receptive and supportive social-emotionally. With Dr. Damo, doors opened for me that I otherwise would not have had access to. I was one of Fisks’ first few students to graduate with a degree in Biochemistry/ Molecular Cell Biology. I was able to secure an intensive summer research program at UC Berkley. I helped spearhead the American Heart Association’s HBCU initiative pilot program in collaboration with Vanderbilt University. Post-graduation I had a smooth transference to full time research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where I am a contributor to a paper accepted for publication in Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology. With Dr. Damo’s support, I was able to gain the foundational knowledge and skills that would help me further my success in the future. Dr. Damo’s patience, flexibility, feedback, knowledge, and resources helped me find early success and build my confidence as a learner, as a professional, and as an individual.

Dr. Rukiayah Warner-Moxley

Current role: 2nd-year pediatric resident at UNC-Chapel Hill

Working in the Damo lab has left a lasting impact on me, both professionally and personally. Our research involving MRSA and its antibiotic resistance remains relevant to me as I treat kids with MRSA infections. The mentorship I received from Dr. Damo helped me realize that the biggest obstacle in my way is myself and I belong in STEM and medicine. He showed me that I, an underrepresented minority in STEM and medicine, can thrive in these harsh environments, despite what others may think of me and my capabilities.




Marshae Lashley

Current role: Obstetrics and Gynecology Float Pool Registered Nurse and Student Nurse Midwife

Being a part of Dr. Damo’s Lab was truly the highlight of my college matriculation. Every day I had the opportunity to be mentored and molded into a better individual. Dr. Damo was an amazing mentor, scientist, teacher and student advocate. This lab expanded my love and knowledge for science in ways I didn’t think were possible. It also taught me several core values that I carry with me in my nursing career today, such as how to listen to others, work in a team setting, critique myself as well as take constructive criticism, be confident in my knowledge, help others around me rise to their full potential and understanding that failing at something doesn’t make you a failure, These values played a major role in shaping me into the nurse I am today. I am better at working as a team in the clinical setting, giving and receiving adequate advice, advocating for patients, communicating with families and providers, and having the confidence to effectively teach others what I’ve learned in my role. I owe so much of my success in my nursing career and determination to always aim higher to Dr. Damo and all the skills and knowledge I’ve gained from being a member of his lab! I am forever grateful!



“Rocky” Giwa

Current Role: 3rd year Immunology graduate student in the lab of Jon Brestoff, MD, PhD, MPH studying the role of immune cells in metabolic disorders such as obesity, and type II diabetes.

he Damo lab was my first introduction to the world of biomedical research, starting from learning how to pipette to designing and troubleshooting experiments. As a novel researcher and a very recent immigrant, the Damo lab provided me with the tools I needed to explore my interests in a rigorous yet encouraging environment.  In addition to a friendly lab atmosphere, the mentorship I received from Dr. Damo has been instrumental in expanding my curiosity towards scientific knowledge. I am grateful to have been a student of Dr. Damo, as the analytic and interpersonal skills I learned from his guidance have been extremely useful in my current role as a graduate researcher.



Velia Garcia

Current role:PhD Candidate in Chemistry, Vanderbilt University

As a first-generation college student, I did not have a solid idea of what I wanted to do with a degree in chemistry. Under the mentorship of Dr. Damo, I discovered a passion for structural biology; not only did he help me identify career goals, I also improved my research skills, technical knowledge and gained the confidence to become a mentor to younger students. Now that I am in my final year of my PhD program, not only is he still supporting me as a mentor, but I also owe a lot of my success to the time spent in the Damo lab.





Briana Whitehead

Current Role: PhD Candidate in Biophysics at Johns Hopkins University

I am honored to be an alumna of Fisk University and the Damo lab. Dr. Damo has been one of the most influential mentors I have had throughout my scientific career. His guidance on formulating scientific questions and reasonable experiments has allowed me to develop into a well-rounded and independent scientist in a field I never would have heard of if not for my time in his lab. Outside of the sciences, Dr. Damo has taught me to come outside of my comfort zone, to believe in myself and my skills as well advocate for myself and the path I want to take for my future career. He continues to check on my well-being in the lab and out of it, giving encouragement and life lessons along the way. I can honestly say, without Fisk and the guidance and support from Dr. Damo I would have never seen myself at such a prestigious institution studying Biophysics and I will eternally be grateful for the foundation Dr. Damo helped me build to get to this point.




Tyra Avery

Current role: PhD trainee University of Alabama at Birmingham


I am truly thankful for Dr. Damo’s mentorship over the years. I was able to grow and embark on new paths due to the strong mentorship and support.  During my time in the Damo lab I was able to be mentored and mentor others effectively. I will always appreciate his guidance and kindness. Fisk University will forever be in my heart. Fisk Forever!







Dana Franklin

Current role: 4th year PhD Candidate at UCLA MBIDP (Molecular Biology Interdepartmental Program).

Impact: The mentoring I received from Dr. Damo was invaluable. Through his guidance and resources I became a well rounded scientist and was exposed to so many aspects of science that encouraged me to pursue a PhD. Dr. Damo goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that the students he impacts have the tools necessary to thrive in STEM and he is such an amazing figure in the community.






Anisha Mittal

Current role: Third-year medical student at Penn State College of Medicine

The mentorship and encouragement that I received while at Fisk and in the Damo lab is the reason I am now a third-year medical student at Penn State College of Medicine and aspiring diagnostic radiologist. While I owe my successes to many incredible educators, Dr. Damo was and still is instrumental in my development as a scientist and clinician. Since the time that I joined his lab as an undergraduate student at Fisk, he has been an extraordinary mentor who has allowed me to realize my full potential and has encouraged me to formulate and reach goals that I thought would be unattainable. He instilled in me a passion for scientific research and mentorship that will be carried with me throughout my medical career. My words cannot fully appreciate the impact that Dr. Damo has had on my personal and professional growth–any student under his mentorship is very lucky!




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