Marie Onakomaiya Wins 2013 Graduate Community Award
Graduate Community Award winners were announced by Dean F. Jon Kull on May 10 at the Graduate Poster Session as part of Graduate Appreciation Week (April 6-12). The Graduate Studies Office awards the Graduate Community Award each year to recognize graduate students’ commitment to serving the Dartmouth community. Recipients contribute through participation in student governance, serving on campus-wide committees, and in the development and promotion of academic and social programs. They receive $1,000 in honor of their dedication to the community.
Onakomaiya is a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of Physiology and Neurobiology in the Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine. She earned her undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Babcock University in Nigeria. Onakomaiya works in the lab of Professor Leslie Henderson, studying the sex-specific effects of anabolic androgenic steroids on anxiety. She also examines how alcohol consumption and voluntary exercise interact with steroid use. This work is significant because it could inform steroid users, which today includes both men and women, of the potential long-term effects of chronic anabolic steroid use on their behavior and brain. Onakomaiya has won several awards, including a Graduate Travel Award in 2012 and a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Early Career Investigators Travel Award in 2011. She was also an Albert J. Ryan Foundation Fellow in 2012.
While it is difficult to fully describe the extent of Onakomaiya’s engagement on campus, a couple of the groups and programs with which she is involved include the Dartmouth International Graduate Mentorship Program (IGMP), the Dartmouth Graduate-Undergraduate Mentoring Program, the Graduate Relief Team, the Geisel Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee, and the events committee for the Neuroscience Center at Dartmouth. Onakomaiya was also a student representative for the Graduate Student Council (GSC) from 2010-2011 and the student life chair of GSC from 2011-2012. She is currently a member of the GSC web team committee.
The Graduate Relief Team (GRT), of which Onakomaiya is co-chair, has been involved in a number of activities on campus. The group coordinates monthly volunteer opportunities for graduate students with community non-profits and Dartmouth service organizations. It organized a campus-wide screening of the award-winning documentary Water Pressures in association with the ONE Campus Challenge on World Water Day in March 2012. In addition, the GRT has conducted fundraising and organized a graduate student team to participate in the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay For Life.
As the graduate student representative of the Geisel Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee, Onakomaiya helped organize several events to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. in January 2013. Currently, as a student representative for the events committee of the Neuroscience Center at Dartmouth, Onakomaiya is helping to organize the first Upper Valley Brain Bee for local high school students. The event seeks to raise awareness about the brain and encourage interest in neuroscience.
Onakomaiya is also a member of the grants review committee for Granite United Way and a volunteer at Upper Valley Haven in White River Junction, Vermont, where she provides mentoring and childcare for shelter guests. She has also worked with the non-profit, Friends of Firefighters, on developing a relief service project in communities in New York affected by Superstorm Sandy.
In nominating her for this award, her peers wrote that Onakomaiya “is a dedicated leader within the graduate community and beyond,” who “is involved in countless activities outside of lab, all of which serve to strengthen the Dartmouth community.” They described her as “passionate and motivated, organized and caring.” One nominator reflected, “this award exists for people exactly like Marie.”
The Graduate Studies Office applauds Onakomaiya for her hard work and wishes her the best in all of her future community endeavors!