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In the span of less than 10 years, Jeliyah “Liyah” Clark ‘18 (Ph.D. ’22) has earned both a bachelor’s degree and her Ph.D. from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health—and is among the first students from the Chancellor’s Science Scholars Program to graduate with a doctoral degree. 

A woman in a black tank top stands in front of greenery
Jeliyah “Liyah” Clark

Her graduate research in the lab of Rebecca Fry stemmed from her experiences growing up in eastern North Carolina and has focused on pregnant women and their exposure to chemicals during pregnancy. 

“I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone in many ways during my time as a graduate student,” Clark said. “I’m grateful to have had a training experience that forced me—in the very best ways—to mature academically, emotionally and professionally.” 

She’s admired the practice-oriented work of faculty members like Courtney Woods, who has engaged communities through participatory action research, which includes community members who are affected by an issue to engage in research and problem-solving efforts. “I’ve always believed that research should be done in service of people,” Clark said.  

Clark, part of the Royster Society of Fellows, the premier top doctoral recruitment fellowship at UNC-Chapel Hill, credits the support with helping her pursue internships abroad, which led to an opportunity to continue her research career abroad after graduation. 

“The Royster fellowship helped fund my internships abroad,” she said. “I don’t think I’d have the courage to pursue a fellowship in another country without the friends, sense of autonomy and grit I gained through solo travel.” 

Her advice to graduate students at Carolina is simple: Prioritize your health and well-being.  

“It’s important to be intentional about having a life outside of the lab,” she said. “Be daring and resourceful in curating the training experience you want to receive.” 

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