Ebony Weems, Ph.D
M.S. Biomedical Data Science
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M.S. Data Science
M.S. Biomedical Data Science
Ph.D. Biomedical Data Science
Ebony Weems, Ph.D., began a lifelong passion for science and education at a young age.
“My great grandfather died of Alzheimer’s disease, so even before I started college I wanted to be either a pathologist or a neurologist,” says Dr. Weems. “I was determined to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.”
Plans for medical school transitioned to an interest in microbiology after encountering a faculty research poster about bacterial pathogenesis in fibroblast cells. “I am so glad that I walked to campus that day. I honestly do not think that I would have been exposed to the faculty research in my department.
With her eyes opened to how biological research can impact health care, Dr. Weems graduated from Valdosta State University with two years of training in an independent research study, a bachelor’s degree in biology, and minor in chemistry.
That degree was the first of many. She has earned a master’s degree in microbiology from Alabama A&M, a master’s in secondary education and teaching from Belmont University, and a doctorate in the biomedical sciences from Meharry.
Dr. Weems’ impact extends beyond research, as she is a dedicated and innovative educator. She brings her expertise in data science into the classroom and lab, creating immersive learning experiences for her students. Her teaching methods and hands-on approach empower students to harness the power of data science for problem-solving and critical thinking.
Her students often describe her as not just a teacher but a mentor and guide, instilling in them the confidence to tackle complex challenges and embrace data-driven decision-making.
“I just want to be able to share my love for science with everyone. If it’s a four-year-old, a 4th grade classroom, or a senior scientist and expert with years in the field,” says Dr. Weems. “That has always been my passion.”
She combined her teaching and science interests by working while pursuing her advanced degrees. She held several positions in education, including roles at Metro Nashville Public Schools and several adjunct, fellowship and educational consulting positions. She is now the CEO and Director of Entegral Inc., a private consulting firm and assistant professor of biomedical science/ biomedical data science at Alabama A&M.
Dr. Weems is enjoying her rewarding work as a researcher and educator but has always been mindful of her future.
“At some point you sit and think about your research and its direction. I realize that many of the disciplines, in particular the biological sciences are undergoing a sort of evolution. Tools that would traditionally be found in a computer science or engineering or computational department are being used by biologists to answer questions faster. Concerning artificial intelligence we will definitely be able
to harness its power to address some of pressing issues that we are facing including environmental change” she says.
“Plus, if I decide to transition from the academy, I have the tools to do so,” adds Dr. Weems.
At the same time, she learned about the M.S. Biomedical Data Science program at Meharry’s new School of Applied Computational Sciences. She applied and was enrolled with the January 2022 cohort, a decision she calls one of her best in the life.
“As an alumna, it has been a rewarding experience. The fact that this is a whole different field and that I have been on the Dean’s list since I started makes it even more rewarding. I wasn’t even on the Dean’s list during my doctoral program,” she says.
Just two months into the M.S. Biomedical Data Science program, Dr. Weems began sharing her new skills with her graduate students at Alabama A&M. She is currently mentoring two graduate students, three undergraduate students, and two high school students.
“I had a graduate student with a 40,000 gene dataset. He wanted to perform a functional analysis, so I taught him R,” says Dr. Weems. “Thats the beauty of it. I was actually sharing what I was learning with my graduate students. Now I require all students who work in my lab to learn a computer programming language.” she says.
Teaching those tools means her students are using free, open-source programming languages rather than spending grant funding on software.
Dr. Weems also began applying her new data science tools to her research. She developed a predictive model to explore improving the health outcome of obesity in minority women for a TMCF – Novartis grant. She is also part of a Meharry RCMI supplemental grant, through which she will add ethical artificial intelligence to her courses at Alabama A&M.
Dr. Weems capstone will look at health outcomes for older Americans. Just like her great grandfather’s death led her to a life of science, she is drawing inspiration from her family for the project.
“When I was born, seven of my grandmothers were still alive and I grew up closely with five of them, so I am very concerned with the state of older Americans. I hope that the research findings can be used to implement policies to protect this growing population” she says.