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Heba Ali

Heba at commencement

Heba Ali accomplished a lot during her time at FIU. She experienced the joy of living and working in FIU’s culturally diverse community. She discovered a love of Café Bustelo Cuban coffee. And most importantly, she pursued a passion for physiology.

Heba, a Fall 2021 doctoral graduate from the Department of Biological Sciences, developed an interest in physiology while studying immunology at Assiut University in Egypt. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Assiut before travelling to the United States and completing an additional master’s degree in biology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

When Heba decided to continue her graduate studies in the U.S., she ultimately determined that FIU was the right place for her. The campus was diverse, the weather was nice, and her research interests aligned with those of Dr. Philip Stoddard, a professor in Biological Sciences.

“One of the successful steps in graduate school is to find the best mentor,” Heba says. “I was under the supervision and guidance of one of the most impressive professors during my PhD studies.”

Heba’s doctoral project was an interdisciplinary endeavor investigating the interplay among metabolism, endocrinology, electrophysiology, and genetics.

“Understanding how organisms allocate finite resources across physiological functions is a major challenge in biology,” Heba says. “I was interested in understanding the energetic cost of the physiological functions and how animals prioritize their energy usage. Using the electric fish as a model organism, my PhD research explored how vertebrates control trade-offs in competing for metabolic demands.”

In addition to working on her research and presenting at several conferences, Heba found the time and energy to become involved in several activities on campus, including Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) and the Graduate Advisory Board. She has been repeatedly recognized for her work. In 2021, she was chosen as a Real Triumphs Graduate, and she won the Diversity Award for the International Society for Neuropathology (ISN). ISN’s Diversity Award is an annual initiative to support neuropathological scientists who have been disadvantaged due to gender, ethnicity, disability, class or other characteristics. Heba also secured a Grant in Aid of Research from Sigma Xi, the scientific research honor society and received the University Graduate School’s Dissertation Year Fellowship for two semesters.

On top of all of that, Heba is also a mother. She attributes her success to her ambition, her hardworking nature, and her punctuality. She also cites passion as a driving force.

“I am always passionate about empowering women to pursue careers in science and technology,” she says.

Now that Heba has completed her doctoral degree, she plans to continue her research and become a professor. She recently accepted a neurological sciences post-doctoral position at the University of Chicago.

“My PhD journey was overwhelming at times due to being a grad student and mother at the same time,” she says. “However, I do not ever give up on my dreams.”

grad student headley

Andrea Marie Headley

Andrea Marie Headley has always wanted to serve the public and make an impact on her community.  Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in South Florida, Andrea earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Miami, where she double-majored in Human and Social Development and Criminology. As an undergraduate at UM, she developed an interest in organizational behavior and community relations after taking classes in community and program development.

“I yearned for a deeper understanding of societal problems and to analyze, if not inspire solutions,” she said.

Andrea wanted to do something that would enable her to serve the public and improve the community, so she decided to pursue a doctoral degree in Public Affairs.

“I knew I wanted to conduct research that had practical implications and solved problems,” Andrea said. “When the current events surrounding Ferguson and police shootings began to shed light on police-community tensions, it served as a motivation for my dissertation research.”

Andrea’s research applies organizational theories to understand the relationship between police departments and the community. As part of her doctoral dissertation, she examined the role of organization characteristics on police-community relations, used nationwide data on police agencies to develop a multi-dimensional index to measure organizational performance, and examined how and why organizational characteristics impact police-community relations. Andrea’s research is already impacting the community: she has conducted a program evaluation of police body-worn cameras for a local police department.

Andrea, a McKnight Doctoral Fellow, chose FIU for her graduate studies because of the interdisciplinary features of the Public Affairs program.

“I felt that this program gave me the best of all worlds by allowing me to have a broader understanding of public service while still allowing for a substantive policy focus in Criminal Justice,” she said.

Andrea is grateful for the many opportunities that have come her way while attending FIU, including attending international workshops and conferences, receiving methodological training at the University of Michigan’s ICPSR Summer Program, and presenting at national conferences across the United States.

“My time at FIU has been very rewarding, and I am very grateful,” Andrea said. “I have been blessed with wonderful support from various people, departments, and the University as a whole. The support, encouragement, and intellectual freedom I have been given at FIU has been instrumental in my development as a scholar.”

After completing her doctoral degree, Andrea will continue to pursue her research interests and plans to use her research to influence policy and practice. She has accepted two positions that will help with those goals. For the upcoming academic year, she will hold a post-doctoral position at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Following her post-doctoral work, she will join the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University as a tenure-track assistant professor.