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STEMinists: VCU Alumnae in Science

March 24, 2021

Join VCU Alumni and moderator Sarah Golding, Ph.D., associate professor and director of undergraduate research for the VCU Department of Biology, for the virtual panel STEMinists: VCU Alumnae in Science. This panel of women researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs will discuss what it takes to trailblaze in the sciences, what skills they value most in their professions and what we can do to ensure that the next generation of women follow their lead.

Register for the Zoom link.


Panelists will include:

  • Salma Omer (BS Chemistry ‘15/H&S), Fellow, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
  • Tiffany Rolle (BS Forensic Science ‘12/H&S), Genetics Education and Engagement Fellow, National Human Genome Research Institute
  • Alyssa Ward (M.S. Clinical Psychology ‘04/H&S and Ph.D. Clinical Psychology ‘07/H&S), Behavioral Health Clinical Director, Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Service
  • Micah Risk (BS HPEX ‘07/H&S), Head of Nutrition, Lighter



Sarah Golding received her Ph.D. from the University of the West of England, Bristol, in the United Kingdom in 2006. She did her post-doctoral training in the laboratory of Kristoffer Valerie, Ph.D., in the Department of Radiation Oncology, Massey Cancer Center, at VCU. Sarah is a molecular biologist by training. Her doctoral and post-doctoral work focused on exploring the use of small molecule cell signaling inhibitors to increase a patient’s sensitivity to radiation therapy, to improving brain cancer treatment outcomes. Sarah joined the VCU Department of Biology in 2011 as the Director of Undergraduate Research Coordinator. Sarah's since has focused on promoting undergraduate research and other experiential learning experiences at VCU. Sarah is deeply committed to supporting inclusion in STEM careers. She is the Undergraduate Program Director for the VCU Initiative to Maximize Student Development, the Co-Program Director of the VCU Bridges to the Baccalaureate program, and on the Leadership team of the VCU Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence program.

Salma Omer, Ph.D. received her BS in Chemistry from VCU in 2015. While at VCU, through the HERO and IMSD undergraduate research programs, Dr. Omer performed undergraduate research at the VCU Pauley Heart Center under the mentorship of Dr. Rakesh Kukreja. Here, she investigated the cardioprotective effects of the PDE-5 inhibitor, Sildenafil (Viagra ®) in rat cardiomyocytes under ethanol cytotoxicity and glucose stress. Immediately after completing her undergraduate degree, Dr. Omer pursued a PhD in Neuroscience at Vanderbilt University in 2015. Her dissertation in the Eric Delpire laboratory focused on characterizing rare disease-causing human mutations in genes affecting cation chloride cotransporters (CCCs), resulting in nervous system and energy homeostatic deficits. By generating CRISPR-Cas9 mice expressing the human mutations in CCCs, various in vivo, ex vivo, and in vitro cell based assays were utilized to generate a causality link between the gene mutation and phenotypes caused by the mutations in CCCs. Salma received her PhD in 2020 and is currently completing a research fellowship at Vertex Pharmaceuticals in Oxford, United Kingdom.

Tiffany Rolle, Ph.D. is an education and engagement fellow, with the National Institutes of Health and the American Society of Human Genetics. As a fellow, she contributes to the development of genomic educational resources for educators and health care providers, along with workforce diversity and outreach initiatives. Dr. Rolle began her scientific education at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) with a degree in Forensic Science. Engagement with Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development programs allowed Dr. Rolle to participate in several research experience at VCU medical campus. These opportunities ignited Dr. Rolle’s interest in translational research which led her to the Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program at Case Western Reserve University. Seeing the important implications of scientific research in disease treatments, Dr. Rolle pursued and completed her doctorate degree in genetics and genomics from Baylor College of Medicine. Her thesis work assessed cardiovascular dysfunction in a preclinical glycogen storage disease model. During her graduate career she also actively led student organizations that fostered community and diversity. Dr. Rolle hopes to continue her professional career towards the advancement of science literacy, equity, and inclusion. 

Alyssa Ward, Ph.D., LCP is the Behavioral Health Clinical Director at the Department of Medical Assistance Services, overseeing all aspects of policy and regulation related to the Virginia Medicaid Behavioral Health Program. Dr. Ward oversees the Addiction Recovery Treatment Services (ARTS) program and the SUPPORT ACT grant, which has brought 5 million dollars to Virginia to support provider capacity for substance use disorder treatment. Dr. Ward also serves as the agency lead for the behavioral health enhancement initiative, an effort to transform the Medicaid behavioral health services array into a robust continuum of evidence-based, trauma-informed, prevention-focused and recovery-oriented care. Dr. Ward is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with experiences as a clinician, supervisor, trainer, administrator and implementation researcher in the areas of evidence-based practice (EBP) and trauma-informed care in community settings. Dr. Ward received her Ph.D. from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), completed her residency at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and fellowships at both The University of Hawaii and the University of California Los Angeles. Most recently, Dr. Ward was an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at VCU and she continues to be affiliate faculty and maintain one afternoon of clinical practice at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond serving youth with complex medical and psychological challenges.

Micah Risk is an entrepreneur and ardent advocate for sustainability solutions, dedicating her life and career to creating a more just and equitable global food system. Micah's education began at VCU with a degree in Exercise Science and a focus in Community Health Education. Her education in the HPEX program and close mentors, Dr. Joann Richardson and Dr. Dale Bond, facilitated growth in leadership and program development skills and created unique international opportunities in health research. As a Penn State scholar, Micah worked on the Global InfoBase at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. She then went on to study at the only graduate school of nutrition in the U.S., The Tufts University Friedman School, where she earned a Master's degree in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition, with a focus on Nutrition Interventions and Urban Agriculture. Micah then founded Lighter, a software-based food-as-medicine company with an all female-founded team. Lighter works with strategic partners such as celebrities, professional athletes, healthcare professionals and healthcare organizations to make personalized plant-rich diets accessible to people around the world. Today, Micah works as the Head of Nutrition at Lighter and serves on two advisory boards focused on entrepreneurship, sustainability and health in the food space.







Amy Gray Beck
(804) 586-5202

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