Member Spotlight: Darnell D. Davis, BA, MHFA

Darnell Davis

Darnell Davis is a Research Fellow at the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) in the area of Molecular Biology, Epidemiology, Data Analysis. He became an ASCB member in 2022 and has been an active member of the Women in Cell Biology (WICB) Committee and has served as an applicant reviewer for several ASCB awards.

How long have you worked in the cell biology field?
I have been working in the field of biology for the past few years. During the last two years, I have been pursuing my Ph.D. studies at Howard University. My research has primarily focused on molecular virology, particularly on the complex dynamics of RNA viruses. I am currently working on developing a new detection method that utilizes anti-genome sequencing.

What is your field of research?
I am currently researching how RNA viruses interact with host cells, focusing on the mouse variant (MHV-A59) strain of the Coronavirus family. My primary goal is to develop a new detection method that targets the antigenome instead of the positive genome sequence. This approach will enable us to differentiate between active and non-active forms of RNA viruses, making it easier to detect and monitor virus trends in public health. Ultimately, this will aid us in identifying infected individuals and improving public health policies. 

What initially got you interested in becoming a scientist and then later specifically your field of research?
I decided to pursue a career in science to impact people’s lives positively. In college, I found my passion for finding solutions to significant problems. During the pandemic, I worked as an epidemiology specialist and saw firsthand the devastating effects of infectious diseases. This experience deepened my interest in viruses and molecular virology research to help us better understand and combat infectious diseases.

What is going on in your research now that you are particularly excited about?
I’m incredibly excited about the current direction of our research, as it holds immense potential to positively impact public health. We’re currently focusing on several key features of our detection method that could revolutionize how we approach public health policies. We’re exploring aspects that would enable more accurate differentiation between individuals who are infectious and those who are not, which is critical for implementing effective control measures. Additionally, we’re investigating how our method can enhance the detection and assessment of antiviral effectiveness, which could significantly improve treatment strategies for viral infections.

What is a challenge in your career and how did you overcome it?
One of the significant challenges I encountered in my STEM journey was finding a supportive environment where I could thrive and receive effective mentorship. Identifying opportunities for mentorship proved to be particularly challenging, as it required navigating complex professional networks and establishing meaningful connections. However, I overcame this challenge by actively seeking out mentors who shared my research interests and values. Through persistence and networking, I was able to forge valuable mentorship relationships that have been instrumental in my personal and professional growth.

What is some advice that you could give to an early career scientist?
While I may still be on my journey as a PhD student and hesitant to offer advice to early career scientists, I’ve gathered valuable insights from mentors and colleagues across various fields. One piece of wisdom that resonates with me is the importance of finding joy and purpose in your work. Despite the challenges and demands of scientific research and study, maintaining a genuine passion for what you do can make all the difference. Personally, I find that my commitment to meaningful work, coupled with a sense of purpose, fuels my motivation and drive. Therefore, my advice to aspiring scientists would be to prioritize finding fulfillment and enjoyment in their chosen path, as it can ultimately lead to both personal and professional success.

Why did you decide to become a member of ASCB and how has it helped your career?
I joined ASCB to take my science career seriously and connect with professionals who share my passion for advancing knowledge. Being part of ASCB has exposed me to groundbreaking research and introduced me to passionate individuals in the field. Through workshops and conferences, I’ve gained valuable insights, developed new skills, and made meaningful connections. This community has supported my academic and professional growth and inspired me to strive for excellence in my own work. I am thrilled to be part of this enriching experience, and I believe ASCB will continue to foster the development of extraordinary scientists, scholars, and academics.

Who is your scientific hero and how have they inspired your career?
My academic heroes are Dr. Ernest Everett Just and Dr. Percy Julian. I learned about Dr. Just early on in my academic journey, and his perseverance despite facing discrimination has been an inspiration to me. He overcame the challenges in his field and became a trailblazer in science, motivating me to pursue my own scientific inquiry. Dr. Percy Julian’s work and his ability to overcome societal barriers also resonate with me. Despite facing discrimination, he persevered and became a changemaker, inspiring me to follow his example. I admire their remarkable lives and contributions, and there is much to learn from their legacies.

What are some of the challenges you see in the future for your field of research or the scientific community as a whole?
As scientists, one of our future challenges is protecting research from being influenced by politics. We must ensure that our work is unbiased and impartial so that resources are used to address the most pressing societal needs. We have seen in the past how political agendas can affect scientific research, leading to outcomes that benefit a few at the expense of the many. Our responsibility is to maintain fairness and objectivity in our work, ensuring that it serves the greater good and is accessible to everyone. By being transparent and impartial, we can reduce the impact of political pressures and biases and preserve the credibility of our work.

What are you most optimistic about when it comes to the future of science?
I am particularly optimistic about the increasing emphasis on diversity and inclusion in STEM fields. Efforts to enhance representation and community engagement not only foster trust but also facilitate impactful contributions that benefit a broader spectrum of society. Through my academic and professional journey in cell biology, I’ve been inspired by the innovative work of colleagues and peers. Despite the challenges, I believe that science holds immense potential to positively transform lives and propel societal progress.

Any interesting hobbies or pastimes you enjoy that you would like to share?
I enjoy going to the gym, practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and gardening.

About the Author:

This post was collaboratively written by several ASCB staff members.