Carnegie Mellon University

Betty Mbom

Betty Mbom (S 2008)

Biological Sciences major, student commencement speaker, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellow


Encouraging others to "lift as we climb"

Mentorship has been a way of life for biological sciences major Bertrade “Betty” Mbom. A native of the Bronx, N.Y., Mbom has been a mentor to students from local school districts through the Physics Concepts Outreach Program and a volunteer judge for science fairs through the Biological Sciences Student Advisory Council.  She was a resident assistant for Carnegie Mellon’s Summer Academy for Math and Science and vice president of public relations for Alternative Break.

In 2007, with support from the Mellon College of Science’s Dean’s Office and the Carnegie Mellon Advising Resource Center (CMARC), Mbom founded COMPASS, short for COaching Minority Progress and Academic Success in Science, a mentoring program for first-year minority students.

As the 2008 student commencement speaker, Mbom addressed the crowd with her speech, “Lift as We Climb.” She reflected on her own life at Carnegie Mellon noting the impact faculty and staff have on students, and reminding her classmates of the impact students can have, too.

“We receive a distinct preparation at Carnegie Mellon, and our talents should also be used to help others,” Mbom said. “I am very passionate about this because of the impact that various mentors have had on me, simply because they cared.”

She says many individuals from the university have inspired and supported her, especially Vice President for Research Rick McCullough, Amy Burkert, Eric Grotzinger, Beth Jones and John Woolford of the Biological Sciences Department, and the CMARC advisers.

After graduation, Mbom headed west to Stanford University, where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology on a prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study. She was one of five recipients nationwide to earn the fellowship, which provides her with up to five years of full funding for graduate study towards a doctorate in the sciences.

At Stanford, Mbom continues to study a group of compounds called Eg-5 inhibitors, which she first researched during a HHMI Exceptional Research Opportunities program at Stanford with Professor Tim Stearns. Eg-5 inhibitors disrupt cell division, and Mbom hopes to see if there is potential for the inhibitors to be used as a cancer therapy.

After completing her studies at Stanford, Mbom says she wants to become a university professor, continue to pursue her research interests and inspire students to enter the field of science.

Written by Abby Houck for The Piper's 4/08 – 5/08 issue