Darian James

2nd Year PhD Student
Biomedical Engineering
University of Wisconsin - Madison

About Me

I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from South Carolina State University. When I was younger I aspired to be a pediatrician but I am going to be a different kind of Doctor. Service and giving back is a major part of who I am! I believe in reaching back to pull others up!

How was your experience with STEM classes and teachers in middle and high school?

I did not experience STEM classes until high school. Through Project Lead the Way I was able to gain hands on experience in circuit design, AutoCAD, solving engineering problems.

What’s next for you?

After graduate school, I plan to work in industry while mentoring young minorities.

What do you do to unwind?

To unwind, I like to treat myself. Whether it be spending time with family/friends or eating ice cream or watching movies.

My Research

Tell us about your graduate research

I use computer vision to differentiate between diseased and non diseased second harmonic generation (SHG) microscopy images. More specifically, I am currently looking at Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). A deadly lung disease whose underlying etiology is unknown. By combining the power of SHG and a form of texture analysis to study image features, the ultimate goal is to transition our methods to the clinic.

What motivated you to pursue this line of research?

My B.S. is in Nuclear Engineering, though I enjoyed the experiences I was afforded, I knew that Nuclear Engineering was not my passion. During my sophomore year, one of my closest friends was diagnosed with bone cancer. This was one of the most difficult periods of my life. Watching her go through so much pain was unbearable. Her battle served as the catalyst for the line of research that I am in. I wanted to work for a lab that uses noninvasive imaging to detect cancer and other diseases.

What is the coolest thing about your research?

The coolest part about my research is that we can image various diseases and cancers!

What is the most challenging part of research for you?

The most difficult part about my research is the heterogeneity in some of the diseases we look at.

My Grad School Experience

Why did you choose to go to Grad School?

I chose UW Madison because unlike many of the other graduate schools I applied to, UW had a collaborative research environment. Graduating from an HBCU, being able to collaborate with others was major for me.

Do you ever feel discouraged? How do you get around that?

Yes, in fact I have. Sometimes the people closest to you want to support you so bad, that they do not realize their support is smothering. I have had a few people tell me that my dreams are not attainable or that I should go about reaching them in a different way. If you know deep down that what you’re doing is right, see it through! I thank God for those individuals as I use them as motivation!

Who are some of your biggest cheerleaders?

God has placed so many amazing people in my life and I am truly grateful for them all! My family, friends, loved ones, hometown, sorors, church family and my undergraduate Institution are my biggest cheerleaders.

What has been the most useful life advice you have received?

The most useful life advice I have received over the years is, learn how to get comfortable being uncomfortable. For that is when you grow the most.

What do you want to say to up and coming Melanin Genius?

Embrace each and every part of you! Don’t be afraid to be different. No matter how hard the journey may get, God brought you to it and he’ll see you through it!

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