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Greensboro NC

The ABE Program Office is excited to welcome our newest ABE program site: ABE North Carolina. This site is based at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCATSU) and led by Dr. Joseph Graves. ABE North Carolina will serve school districts in central North Carolina.

Due to a history of residential segregation in North Carolina, the site will engage districts (and schools within them) that have differential enrollment of underrepresented minority students. This goal is consistent with NCATSU’s mission as a Historically Black Land Grant University and the goals of the ABE program to bring hands-on biotechnology education to students from populations historically underrepresented in STEM.

Meet the Team

NCATSU staff

Joseph Graves, PhD, is a renowned geneticist and the first African American evolutionary biologist. Currently an associate dean for research and a professor of biological sciences at NCATSU, Graves’ professional work is rooted in the evolutionary genetics of aging and untangling genetic misconceptions around the biology of race and racism in American society.

Cailisha Petty, PhD, is the Master of Arts in teaching program coordinator and an assistant teaching professor at NCATSU. She earned a BS in Biology and MS in Biology Education from NCATSU. She earned a PhD in Curriculum and Teaching from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with an emphasis in science education. Her research interests include equity in science education for students of color and preparing engaging, highly qualified STEM educators.

Dongyang Deng, PhD, is an assistant professor in the College of Science and Technology at NCATSU. Her research interests include trace level contaminants removal from aqueous phase; physical, chemical and biological wastewater treatment technology development; environmental microbiology; and sustainable resource and energy development. Deng received her PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from West Virginia University in 2017. 

Scott Harrison, PhD, is an associate professor in the College of Science and Technology at NCATSU. His research interests include integrating targeted model-based studies of organisms and pathways with more comprehensive treatments of life's diversity. His laboratory team aspires to develop and implement biotechnological and bioinformatics workflows to allow for integrative modeling approaches that draw from multiple lines of evidence. Harrison received his PhD in Microbial & Molecular Genetics from Michigan State University.

Liesl Jeffers-Francis, PhD, is assistant professor in the College of Science and Technology at NCATSU. Her research interests include virology, salivary gland disease, preclinical research, long non-coding RNA, microbiology, HIV/AIDS, biomedical science, antiviral drug studies, and immunology. She received her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kristen Rhinehardt, PhD, is assistant professor in the College of Engineering at NCATSU. Her research interests include molecular dynamics, molecular modeling, bioinformatics, nanomodeling, computational biology, and computational chemistry. She made NCATSU history by becoming the first person to receive a degree in Nanoengineering and the first woman and first African American to receive a PhD in Nanoengineering at NCATSU.​​​​​​​

Misty Thomas, PhD, is an associate professor in the College of Science and Technology at NCATSU. She teaches course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) and runs a productive research lab, working with 20 undergraduate researchers over the past 5 years. She did her PhD in Microbiology at the University of Manitoba, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences.

Please help us welcome the ABE North Carolina team to the ABE family!