Indu Sharma, associate professor of biological sciences at Hampton University, has been awarded the Marine Biological Laboratory’s 2021 E. E. Just Fellowship. Sharma is a microbiologist and biotechnologist with a background in molecular microbiology and parasitology. Arriving at the MBL in late May, her research will focus on the role of bacterial cell shape and size as predation avoidance strategy in marine environments.
Sharma describes herself as “passionate about providing authentic research experience to undergraduate minority students to pursue a career in the STEM field.”
The E. E. Just Endowed Research Fellowship Fund honors Ernest Everett Just’s contributions to developmental biology and experimental embryology. Just, a professor in the department of Zoology at Howard University, is widely considered the first Black American to be professionally recognized for his scientific achievements. He came to the MBL in 1909 at the invitation of the institution’s second director, Frank R. Lillie, as his research assistant. Just returned to the MBL nearly every summer for over 20 years, during which time he received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago – one of the first Black Americans to do so. Just discovered an important aspect of cell cleavage while researching his dissertation and published his most important work, The Biology of the Cell Surface, in 1939. He was the first awardee of the NAACP’s highest honor, the Spingarn Medal, in 1915 in recognition of his research in biology.
E. E. Just Fellowships at the MBL enable outstanding researchers from groups underrepresented in science, as well as faculty in minority-serving institutions and historically black colleges and universities, to pursue research in residence at the MBL as part of the institution’s Whitman Center Fellowships. The E.E. Just Fellowship covers the cost of on campus housing accommodations for the Fellow and one undergraduate student, graduate student, or assistant, a research supply budget, and laboratory rental fees while awarding participants access to MBL’s state-of-the-art instrumentation, innovative imaging technology, genome sequencing infrastructure and expertise, model freshwater and marine organisms, and modern laboratory facilities.