Alumnus Shawn Williams is Awarded Prestigious Fellowship Towards Doctoral Studies in ScienceAfter Shawn Williams graduated from John Jay in 2015 with a degree in Forensic Science, he knew he wanted to pursue an advanced career in the sciences. He began a PhD at Brown University and has now received a Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which will offer financial assistance for the next three years of his doctoral research as well as networking and mentorship opportunities. Shawn credits his education at John Jay, especially the Program for Research Initiatives in Science and Math (PRISM), as having first opened his eyes to his potential as a researcher and scientist.

“Until going to John Jay, I didn’t envision myself as a scientist or going to graduate school. I had only seen scientists on TV. PRISM allowed me to see myself as a scientist by setting up a network that said, hey you can do this. They made you want to work and study harder, but they were always there to pick you up. That was key to helping me apply to grad school,” Williams said.

Williams looks forward to continuing his research in biology with the help of The Gilliam Fellowship, which is awarded to exceptional students who are committed to increasing diversity and equity in science, especially for groups that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM. Williams, who grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, says this representation is important.

“We’re products of our environments,” he said. “I didn’t realize what a scientist actually did until I was at John Jay. A lot of kids feel the same way. It’s really important for them to see someone in science who comes from their neighborhood. If there’s only one type of person going into the field, we’re doing a disservice to scientific community.”

Read more about Williams’ journey on Brown University’s website.