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Tulane Class of 2023: A doctoral degree decades in the making

May 12, 2023 2:00 PM
Carolyn Scofield scofield@tulane.edu

Jaikin Harrell will be graduating with a doctoral degree from the Interdisciplinary PhD Program at Tulane University School of Medicine.


Jaikin Harrell knew she wanted to be a scientist in the sixth grade. The years since have been filled with hard work – first earning a bachelor’s degree in biology, then a Master of Science in Pharmacology. Harrell’s long-standing goal will finally be complete next week when she earns her doctoral degree from the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at Tulane University School of Medicine.

“One of my science teachers from middle school watched me defend my PhD,” said Harrell. “It’s wild. It’s one of those things I’ve worked on for years and, at times, it felt like it was never going to happen.  I’m so excited to see what’s next.”

Harrell is one of 14 Biomedical Sciences (BMS) PhD candidates earning their degrees next week. The ceremony, scheduled for Thursday, May 18 at 3 pm in McAlister Auditorium, will also honor the 113 BMS students receiving master’s degrees.

Harrell spent the last seven years in New Orleans, and the last five in the lab of James McLachlan, PhD, Associate Professor of Immunology.  Saying goodbye to the city and her colleagues won’t be easy.

“It’s such a unique and fun city and I’ve built sort of a little family down here,” said Harrell. “It will be hard to leave, but the good thing is a plenty of people will stay, so I’ll always have people to come visit.”

With this goal reached, Harrell is now considering what the next one might be.

“I love being at the bench, but I also love the non-bench side of science like writing manuscripts and presentations and getting the science out there because it feels so inaccessible sometimes,” said Harrell. “I really love taking these papers that most people don’t understand and honing them down to the essential components that people can read. Ultimately, I’d love to be able to find a job where I can do both.”