Meet Theresa and Phylicia

Thersea Akoto

Theresa Akoto

  • Hometown: Accra, Ghana
  • Area of Research: My research focuses on determining the role of PPIP5K2 in relation to keratoconus.
  • Why is your research important? The ultimate treatment for advanced forms of keratoconus requires corneal transplantation. The high cost of corneal transplantation places a heavy economic burden on patients. Therefore, my research aims to better understand the molecular mechanisms of keratoconus for new therapeutic targets.
  • Why did you choose your degree program? I chose CBA because of the great collaborative environment. I believe this will be very essential in my next steps after graduate school. Also, all the faculty here are always supportive and willing to help students overcome challenging situations.
  • What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your mentor? Maintaining a work-life balance is essential for great research and helps prevent burnouts.
  • What have you found most beneficial about your program? The opportunity to learn within and outside my research during journal clubs and seminars.
  • What words of advice do you have for someone considering this program? CBA offers you a great learning experience with very wonderful and supportive colleagues and mentors. CBA also provides several teaching opportunities to graduate students interested in teaching.
  • Have you been involved in any AU organizations?   I participate in Biomedical Student Association social meetings and found these hangouts to be very relaxing. I get to meet my peers that I have not seen in a while. It’s also a great opportunity to meet new students.
  • What have been some of your most rewarding moments as a CBA student? The opportunity to present my research work every semester at both journal clubs and seminars to receive constructive criticisms has been very helpful in honing my public speaking and presentation skills.
  • What are your career goals? My short-term goal is to pursue a post-doctoral training after graduate school. For my long-term goal, I hope to ultimately conduct research in a biotech or pharmaceutical company.
  • What courses stand out as most beneficial and enjoyable? I loved ANAT 8040-Current Topics in Vision Science. Having no background in vision science, I found the course to be very helpful. In addition, the ANAT 8120-Investigative Techniques in Cell Biology is instrumental in understanding most of the techniques used in the lab.
  • What is your Favorite AU memory? I have had the opportunity to meet and learn cultures from people with different backgrounds. I have made good friends who have been very supportive and always there to help. I have also enjoyed some of the best southern foods and the great weather here in Augusta.
  • What do you do for fun?  I love to cook and sightsee. I have already visited a few cities down here in Georgia and out-of-state for their nice scenery and good food. I am all in for the experience.


Phylicia Allen

Phylicia Allen

  • Hometown: Beaufort, South Carolina
  • Area of Research: Cell Polarity. My research would be considered foundational science and involves investigating the regulatory mechanisms of the Dynein motor. My research is important because disruptions in the transport of cargos such as proteins, mRNA, and vesicles could lead to various neurodegenerative diseases such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Understanding these foundational processes can provide information into the mechanisms of these various diseases involving disruptions in Dynein-mediated transport.
  • Why did you choose your degree program?  I chose the Cellular Biology and Anatomy program because it is highly collaborative and offers many teaching opportunities. 
  • What words of wisdom have your mentor shared with you?  “You can’t spend all your time planning the perfect experiment. Sometimes you must take what you have and go for it!”
  • What have you found most beneficial about your program and research at AU? I am always learning something new in different disciplines whether from our journal clubs or seminars. I am always starting conversations with my friends by saying “Did you know…”.
  • What words of advice do you have for someone considering this program at AU? Do not be afraid to ask questions! Some of the best conversations happen by asking a question no matter how simple it may be.
  • What have been some of your most rewarding moments while in your program? Since I am just starting my second year, I would say joining my lab and completing my first-year coursework were some of my rewarding moments. Also, I would say being able to use the Leicascope in our imaging core to accurately capture my data over the course of my first semester in lab was rewarding.
  • What are your career goals? After earning my PhD, I hope to be a professor or become a scientific writer which requires me to be able to communicate to different audiences. Having the opportunity to TA in various classes and to present at our seminars will help me communicate effectively in different scientific settings.
  • What AU resources have been most helpful? The AU Center for Writing Excellence is very helpful for developing my academic writing. They can quickly pinpoint my weaknesses and help me improve them.
  • What is your Favorite AU memory? My favorite AU memory would be the white coat ceremony. It was great to be able to celebrate my accomplishments with friends and family.
  • What do you do for fun?  If I am not gaming, then I am usually in my kitchen trying new TikTok recipes.

Former Student

Hannah Youngblood

"One of the main things that attracted me to the Biomedical Sciences Program at Augusta University was its collaborative atmosphere. Different departments and labs are willing to interact, share resources, and teach techniques to students from other labs. You don't find that level of collegiality just anywhere. The program also seemed very student-centric. And because I was interested in studying glaucoma, the stellar vision research being conducted at the school was a major draw." Hannah Youngblood >>