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Breaking Barriers: WilmU Environmental Science Graduate Earns PhD Fellowship

Amaja' Mack

Amaja’ Mack has been busy these last few years — making plays on the basketball court with the WilmU Wildcats, working to save coral reefs in the biology lab and managing a full-time job as a quality-control technician — all while completing a master’s degree in Environmental Science

“I never thought that I would be a scientist,” says Mack, a 2024 WilmU graduate and former shooting guard on the women’s basketball team. “The ‘aha!’ moment for me was when I found out that this research could potentially help me help the world because at the end of the day, I’m attacking climate change.” 

After graduating this spring — as part of only the second class since the program launched in 2022 — she’ll study geography at the University of Delaware, earning a fully funded Breaking Barriers fellowship for PhD candidates from “historically underrepresented and excluded” backgrounds.  

“It’s a good feeling. I’m very excited,” says Mack, who also holds a WilmU bachelor’s degree in Biology. “I’ll be the first in my family to pursue a doctorate.” 

“The ‘aha!’ moment for me was when I found out that this research could potentially help me help the world because at the end of the day, I’m attacking climate change.” 

– Amaja’ Mack

Plus, she’s the first student from Wilmington University’s science programs to enter directly into a PhD program and its first graduate fellow in NASA’s National Space Grant College and Fellowship Project, which funds STEM-related research in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  

Mack and a team of WilmU scientists have been fighting to protect coral against the harmful effects of ocean warming. Using a non-stony coral relative called aiptasia, they’ve been examining the possible benefits of nicotinamide riboside (NR), a form of vitamin B3, on coral bleaching. 

Dr. Milton Muldrow, the University’s director of Natural Sciences and associate director of NASA Delaware Space Grant, says Mack has “grown tremendously through this program and through our ability to work closely on writing and research.”  

He praises her “resilience and dedication,” while she appreciates his mentorship. 

Dr. Muldrow “wants everyone he works with to succeed,” Mack says. “Everything he does, he does it from the heart.” 

Just like Dr. Muldrow encourages his students, Mack hopes to inspire other women in science.  

“It’s very important to me to make a statement that we can do it too,” she says. “I feel like it’s a blessing to be able to help others in any way you can, and if I can help others with my research, that makes me happy.”  


Wilmington University College of Health Professions and Natural Sciences logo.

Interested in a scientific career with impact? Explore degree programs at Wilmington University’s College of Health Professions and Natural Sciences.  

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