Kyana Gordon in the biology lab.
The research experience Kyana Gordon ’24 gained as a biology major put her in position to earn a coveted fellowship from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Kyana Gordon ’24 was turned away from doing research at her high school. Now, after two years in Adelphi biology labs, she's off to conduct epidemiological research in Jamaica as a Fulbright Scholar. Meet her and three other winners of prestigious national academic awards.

Kyana Gordon ’24 remembers sitting in the exam room of a Jamaican hospital as a young girl, looking to her mom for reassurance as she learned about her various heart issues. Now, 18 years after her family moved to the United States for better medical care, Gordon is preparing to study the epidemiological implications of heart diseases at that same hospital under the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

As a biology major minoring in African, Black and Caribbean studies, Gordon has had years of research experience at Adelphi. She’s also completed two summer internships in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University and volunteered at Mount Sinai Hospital. But, until last summer, she had never written a research grant proposal before.

“I’d heard that Fulbright grants were usually given to master’s or PhD students,” said Gordon, an Honors College student who graduated in May, “but I knew I had an idea that I was passionate about, so I decided to apply.”

With support from many faculty members at Adelphi—including Nicole Rudolph, PhD, associate dean for student engagement and Fulbright representative, and her research mentor, Alexander Heyl, PhD, associate professor of biology—Gordon was accepted into the prestigious Fulbright research program.

“I had to reach out to a lot of people to get this project off the ground,” Gordon said. “I don’t even think I could have done it without being at Adelphi.”

Launching a research career at Adelphi

“I’ve always loved research, and at my high school, we had a science research program,” Gordon said. “I applied to it, but I didn’t get accepted. My teacher didn’t think I had what it took to be in the program.”

When she got to Adelphi, she was determined to rekindle that passion. Contacting mentors in the biology department, she immediately heard back from Dr. Heyl, who invited her to work as an assistant in his lab.

Gordon jumped at the chance, spending the ensuing years conducting research in plant biology. She co-authored a published journal article with Dr. Heyl and other students, Cytokinin Response of the Streptophyte Alga Coleochaete scutata provides a clue to the evolution of cytokinin signaling and presented her work at Adelphi’s 2023 and 2024 Scholarship and Creative Works conferences.

“It has always been a really healthy research environment, which is completely different from my experience in high school,” said Gordon, who also had the opportunity to attend a professional conference held by the Northeastern Section of the American Society of Plant Biologists. “I’m just so grateful for the research opportunity that I had here.”

Studying heart disease care in Jamaica

Gordon’s interest in doing research in the area of heart disease extends beyond her own medical history. Cardiovascular disease affects members of her family and remains the leading cause of death for Jamaicans, many of whom are unable to receive the care they need.

That’s why, starting in August, Gordon will study the impact of new healthcare practices and policies on cardiovascular disease in three hospitals in Jamaica. Over 10 months, she will speak directly with cardiologists and 30 patients across age groups to learn about their experiences receiving treatment. She will also collaborate with clinicians and researchers from the Caribbean Institute for Health Research at the University of the West Indies.

“I’m most looking forward to speaking with the patients and asking what their experiences have been,” Gordon said. “I want to understand how the bureaucracy of the healthcare system has been affecting them.”

After returning from Jamaica, Gordon will work with the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health and the Caribbean Research Center of Medgar Evers College in New York to help identify ways to help personalize treatment and improve healthcare outcomes for Jamaican immigrants in the United States.

A bright future for Adelphi graduates

Gordon is joined by other Adelphi students who’ve won prestigious awards this year. School of Social Work graduate student Sadaf Sofia Latif has been awarded her second Critical Language Scholarship. Through this U.S. government initiative, Latif will enter an intensive language and culture program in Tajikistan’s capital city, Dushanbe, and continue advancing her proficiency in Persian (which is known as Tajik in Tajikistan, Farsi in Iran and Dari in Afghanistan).

Anna Varveris, a senior international relations major in the Honors College and a Levermore Global Scholar, will complete a rigorous summer curriculum in economics, policy analysis and leadership development with the Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute at the University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy & Governance.

Gursimran Singh ’24, an Honors College student who earned a BS in Biology, was chosen for the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship, a program administered by the Fulbright Canada Commission. Singh will examine retinal development in zebrafish at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

“Not just a survivor, but a beacon of hope”

Upon completing her Fulbright program, Gordon plans to publish her findings in a Caribbean open access medical journal and continue working with U.S. hospitals to share her lessons learned for Jamaican immigrants.

“That’s really important to me—making this information accessible to many people,” Gordon said. “It will also be my first solo publication, which is exciting.”

Ultimately, this new experience will be a vital stepping stone to building Gordon’s career as a physician-scientist, drawing on her personal experiences and passions to help improve healthcare practices across the globe.

As Gordon wrote in her Fulbright grant proposal, “Today, I stand poised to embark on a mission close to my heart. … I am not just a survivor but a beacon of hope, driven to ensure that every patient, regardless of background, receives the care and understanding they deserve.”

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