Each month, we feature an Institute staff member and share with the community a behind-the-scenes through a question and answer session to learn more about their research areas, career path and goals, but most importantly recognize their hard work. For our October “Staff Spotlight”, we highlight LaTroy Robinson a Senior Research Assistant in Dr. Nicole Bowles Lab, as well as Dr. Steven Shea’s Lab, the Clinical Physiology and Chronobiology Program.
Tell us more about yourself (career path, goals, anything you want us to know, etc.)
“I graduated from Lewis & Clark College in 2018. I majored in Biochemistry Molecular Biology. I was involved in both science and dance. Dance and Science are two areas I am passionate about. I found out about the Institute when I was attending Lewis & Clark College, specifically through the Black Student Union (BSU). Dr. Bowles was actively recruiting for a Black Research Assistant (RA) for the sleep studies she was leading to help with health disparities research looking at the prevalence of hypertension in the Black community. I knew this role would be for me since the RA position would be very active in community outreach and recruitment for this study.
I feel very thankful it led me to the Shea lab and the Institute. Combining science and working with the Black community was something I never thought I would able to do, as well as working with a Black scientist. I am a very social person and was excited to be more face-to-face in the community.
I am currently looking to apply for graduate school at different cellular and molecular biology programs. I have an interest in both research and teaching. I would love to work at a liberal arts college someday, which would allow me to have career opportunities in different areas, such as a future career path doing research by day and dance at night. The fulfillment of the left brain and right brain is an important aspect of my life.
What current research projects are you working on?
“The study that I have help lead at the Institute is the sleep and circadian study looking at the disparity in the prevalence of hypertension study in the Black Americans. I help coordinate and run study recruitment, screenings, scheduling, data entry and coordination of equipment management. I move people into the pipeline. I am in charge of data entry and analysis, as well as storage of the data.
Additionally, I work with Dr. Steve Shea as an RA in a bodyweight and sleep study. I help with recruitment coordination, as well as scheduling and facilitating the research participant onboarding process from start to finish. I help facilitate overnight sleep labs for these studies, which occur twice a month and are usually around 5 to 7 days long.”
What do you like most about working for OHSU/Institute/occupational health research?
“My favorite thing about working at the Institute is working with Dr. Nicole Bowles in the hypertension study. Working under a Black scientist has been very rewarding. I am very thankful to have this opportunity. Working under a Black Scientist was an important part of coming to the Institute. There is a lot of rapport and comradery on our team. It has been such a unique experience and I am learning a lot of things I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Also, I have really loved the hands-on aspect of community engagement during my time here at the Institute. I am able to go out into the community and bring science directly and engage with the Black community that is here in Portland.
I am current the Co-chair of the PreSERVE Coalition for Black/African Memory and Brain Health. The PreSERVE Coalition has representatives from the community, non-profits and health care organizations from the Portland area. They aim to promote healthy aging for Black Americans, which provides education and dissemination of information in areas of cardiovascular health, dementia and nutrition. This work has given me that fire in my heart feeling. I have had people tell me that they are going to see a primary physician because of the outreach and education I am doing in the community. I feel like I am tangibly putting in efforts to foster connections in science for the Black community.”
What are your favorite hobbies outside of work? Home-life is very important to our health and well-being and is interconnected to our work-life.
“One of my favorite hobbies is dance. It is a big part of my life. I am currently involved in a ballroom house. Vogue is currently my main dance style right now. It is so great to be able to compete at different balls. Vogue is great form of exercise; it is very physically demanding. It is the first dance style that I am able to express myself in. This style of dance has helped me better understand my queerness and navigate life as a mixed Black queer person in Portland and in the world in general. There are many different forms of dance and spaces where the BIPOC and LGTBQ+ communities are able to express themselves. These spaces are welcoming and are safe spaces for marginalized populations. Besides dance, I love eating food, hanging out with friends and taking time for self-care.”
Read more staff spotlights here: