September 6, 2017

Postdoctoral to Faculty Transition Fellowship program welcomes first cohort

The Office of Scientific Training, Workforce Development and Diversity (STWD), housed in the provost’s office, is pleased to welcome its first cohort of six postdoctoral fellows to campus this fall as part of a major initiative to create a pipeline of early career scholars to bolster diversity and academic excellence at Wayne State.

The fellows were selected from a highly competitive national pool of recent Ph.D. recipients for the new Postdoctoral to Faculty Transition Fellowship (PFT) program based on their scholarly accomplishments and potential for academic careers. They come from universities across the United States in a wide array of disciplines including theoretical physics, nanomedicine, substance abuse disorders and cognitive aging.

The PFT program offers intensive mentoring, professional development activities and grant-writing workshops.  Fellows are expected to compete at high academic levels and secure research grants, present at national conferences, publish in academic journals and mentor undergraduate research projects.  Upon completion of a set of rigorous program milestones, PFT fellows will be eligible for consideration for tenure-track faculty positions at Wayne State.

“We welcome this dynamic group of early career scholars to the Wayne State community,” said Provost Keith E. Whitfield.  “These fellows bring unique perspectives to their academic and research careers.  They also understand the experiences of groups which have been historically underrepresented in higher education.”

The 2017-20 fellows are:  DeAnnah Byrd, University of California at Los Angeles;  Jennifer Gomez, University of Oregon;  Megan Hicks, University of Georgia; Joi-Sheree’ Knighton, University of Kentucky;  Sidi Maiga, Howard University; and Amina Wofford, Tuskegee University.

Read more about the 2017 PFT cohort.

The lead faculty mentors are Dr. Peter Lichtenberg, director of the Institute of Gerontology (Byrd); Drs. Valerie Simon, associate professor, Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute and Stella Resko, associate professor, School of Social Work (Gomez); Drs. Poco Kernsmith, professor, and Joanne Smith-Darden, associate professor for research, both of the School of Social Work (Hicks); Dr. Mark Greenwald, associate department chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, School of Medicine (Knighton); Dr. Zhi-Feng Huang, associate professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Maiga); and Dr. Phil Pellett, department chair, biochemistry, School of Medicine (Wofford).

 “The fellows begin their three-year appointments this semester focusing on refining their research skills and working closely with their faculty mentors,” said Associate Provost for STWD and Graduate School Dean Ambika Mathur.  “The PFT program underscores our commitment to attracting faculty to advance our goal of inclusive excellence.  It also enables us to develop a pool of faculty that reflects and meets the needs of our highly diverse student body.”

The program will be managed by Graduate School Associate Dean for Professional Development Todd Leff, who is also a professor of pathology in the School of Medicine.  In this role Leff will organize and manage the PFT activities, including professional development programs as well as grant writing and management training.  In addition, Leff will oversee the general progress of each of the fellows as they progress through the program. 

The PFT is part the of the broader STWD initiative, which seeks to engage people from diverse backgrounds and help them succeed in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. The STWD positions Wayne State as hub for training programs through use of a training continuum model to drive the pipeline from K-12, undergraduate and post-doctorate to early career faculty.  

For more information, contact Associate Provost for STWD and Graduate School Dean Ambika Mathur at or go to

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