Biomedical Sciences Graduate Aims to Mentor Future Scientists

Posted April 24, 2023, 4:15PM

North Carolina Central University (NCCU) wasn’t biomedical sciences major Andrew Barber’s first choice, but given his family’s strong legacy at the university, he knew that the Eagles would provide him with top-notch resources to help him soar in his endeavors.  

“I wanted to be the rebel in the family and begin my own path, but NCCU offered me a scholarship,” said Barber. “That persuaded me to attend along with a bunch of my Eagle family members who were successful in their careers. A strong foundation had already been set for me here.” 

Four of his immediate family members hold degrees from the university, including his father, the renowned Rev. Dr. William Barber II; mother and psychiatric nurse Rebecca McLean; and two siblings, Rebekah and William.  

Yet, despite having an all-access pass to unlimited models of ‘Truth and Service’, Barber’s road to graduation would include some difficulties, like COVID-19. 

“I was always a high-achieving student and strived to make connections outside the classroom, but experiencing the pandemic and having to shift to virtual classes my freshman year was challenging,” he said. “But it reiterated resilience and as my classes got harder each year, I got equally tougher in the way that I prepared, time managed and sacrificed items to ensure I got better academically.” 

Barber mentions that looking toward the future and the promise he made to himself also got him through that period.  

“My younger self always had a dream of becoming a scientist. I remember loving dinosaurs as a child and I was dedicated to furthering my scientific interest,” he added. “Also, being the youngest in my family, I had successful role models to look up to and I knew I had to persevere to keep the tradition going.” 

And Barber kept his promise by excelling all four years with the Ronald E. McNair Scholars, 21st Century Environmental Health Scholars and University Honors programs. Through a collaborative internship opportunity between NCCU and University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, he conducted toxicology research in a lab for nearly two years. As president of the Tri Beta Biological Honor Society, he also attended and presented at multiple scientific conferences across the nation. 

He credits the many faculty members who served as mentors.  

“I am thankful for the NCCU and UNC Chapel Hill faculty members who had an amazing impact on my journey, including my advisor Dr. Alex Marshall for directing me on the right path for my future; Dr. Antonio Baines for helping me secure my first internship; Dean Mohammed Ahmed for his overall support and friendship; and Dr. Ilona Jasper for teaching me how to love and conduct research, and providing the opportunity to work in her neuroscience lab,” Barber added. 

Following graduation, he will begin a post-baccalaureate program at the University of California, Davis, to gain more research experience, followed by a Ph.D. program in neuroscience, environmental health or genetics. Barber’s long-term goal is to become a principal investigator of his own laboratory and help students like himself secure opportunities he was afforded. 

“Given the amazing resources I received, I really want to pay it forward and help students in the future,” said Barber. 

Barber encourages current and future Eagles to persevere despite any odds. b

“You are stronger than you realize. There is so much that is going on, but five or ten years later, you’ll wonder why you worried,” he explained. “Don’t compete with anyone but yourself. You are meant to shine so don’t let anyone dull your light.” 

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