Ten Johns Hopkins PhD students inducted into Bouchet Society

The society celebrates students who exemplify academic and personal excellence, allowing them to connect with a network of scholars

A collage of ten people

Image caption: The 2023 Bouchet Society inductees from Johns Hopkins are (top row, from left): Franklin J. Avilés-Vázquez, Briana S. Bostic, Lois Dankwa, Franklyn D. Hall III, Michael Hopkins (bottom row, from left): Deja Knight, Alexis N. Peña, Oscar E. Reyes Gaido, Jonathan J. Suen, Marah Wahbeh

Ten Johns Hopkins PhD students were inducted into the university's chapter of the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society at a ceremony on Thursday, May 11, in Mason Hall on the university's Homewood campus. The society recognizes doctoral students' academic achievements and their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

The Bouchet Society honors Edward Alexander Bouchet, who in 1876 became the first African American doctoral recipient in the United States. Designed to develop a network of scholars who exemplify academic and personal excellence and who foster a community of support, the society recognizes students who serve as examples of scholarship, leadership, character, service, and advocacy for those who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

"They [the new inductees] are brilliant scholars and dedicated leaders in their communities who embody the animating spirit and exemplary achievements of this society's namesake: Edward A. Bouchet," JHU President Ron Daniels said at the May 11 ceremony, addressing the new cohort of scholars. "We are immensely grateful for the vital work you are undertaking on behalf of your peers, our world, and Johns Hopkins."

The cohort of honorees were invited to attend an annual conference in April at Yale University, one of the founding chapters of the society, and will join members from the society chapters at 19 American universities.

This year's honorees are:

Franklin J. Avilés-Vázquez


Franklin J. Avilés-Vázquez is a PhD candidate in biophysics working to understand the molecular mechanisms of cohesion and DNA repair proteins following DNA damage. Before coming to Hopkins, he earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus.

Avilés-Vázquez cofounded the COVID-19 Coalition of Wisdom of Puerto Rico, known as COSACO, to fill education gaps and address difficulties in his hometown in Puerto Rico during the pandemic. COSACO became a leading educational resource where Avilés-Vázquez, as an executive director, organized more than 15 seminars on COVID-19 and more than 200 five-minute informative videos on local TV channels, reaching more than 300,000 Puerto Ricans.

At Hopkins, Avilés-Vázquez has mentored students and led events that advocate for diversity and inclusion in the scientific community. He has received several honors during his academic journey, including the Francis D. "Spike" Carlson Fellowship and an honorable mention in the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program in 2021. Avilés-Vázquez aims to use his scientific pursuits to contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and serve society.

Briana S. Bostic


Briana S. Bostic is a PhD candidate in education who focuses on teacher well-being, early care educator resources across geographic contexts, and children's development. Prior to coming to Hopkins, she earned a bachelor's degree in economics and anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis, where she received the Excellence in Anthropology Research Award from the Department of Anthropology. Bostic also earned a master's degree in education from Dominican University, specializing in early childhood education.

Bostic has worked as a policy intern at the Administration for Children and Families' Office of Early Childhood Development as a Children's Equity Project Start with Equity Fellow. She has also received the Jeffrey A. Grigg Award for excellence in research in Baltimore, supported by her involvement in the Baltimore Early Childhood Advocacy Council. Bostic enjoys community organizing and has volunteered with groups in St. Louis, Chicago, and several areas across Maryland to advocate for better social infrastructure and community preservation.

Lois Dankwa

Health Policy and Management

Lois Dankwa is a PhD candidate in health policy and management in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, focusing on cross-sector collaboration and care management for individuals in underserved communities facing chronic illness and social challenges. Before coming to Hopkins, Dankwa earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a master's degree in health and the public interest from Georgetown University. Her work explores teamwork and collaborative decision making related to health behavior, organizational structure and development, and strategic management.

Dankwa has developed and run public opinion research to identify people's needs and experiences within the health care system and inform people-centered policy design. She has also conducted clinical research to examine biological factors on patient health outcomes. A current C. Sylvia and Eddie C. Brown Community Health Scholar, Dankwa is committed to connecting people, information, and resources to advance meaningful solutions in health services. She was one of the inaugural awardees for the Institute for Health and Social Policy BSPH Student and Trainee Policy Impact Award and served as the BSPH AcademyHealth chapter president from 2020 to 2022. In her career, Dankwa hopes to contribute to care management transformation to reduce health disparities and improve overall population health.

Franklyn D. Hall III

Biomedical Engineering

Franklyn D. Hall III is a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, focusing on using vascular cells derived from stem cells to understand new mechanisms of disease progression in individuals with Marfan syndrome. Prior to coming to Hopkins, he received a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering with a biomolecular concentration from Mississippi State University. Hall has received the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Gilliam Fellowship and the National Institutes of Health's Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Award in support of his research efforts.

Hall enjoys working with undergraduate students through teaching and mentorship, and recently co-wrote a course that explores how microbiology and genetic and stem cell engineering are fueling solutions to global climate, animal welfare, and food scarcity challenges. He designed three initiatives to help fellow graduate students, including programming to assist minority students in learning self-promotion techniques, a networking event between Black faculty and students to discuss race-based challenges in academia, and a Black graduate student retreat to create a community-building space that provided recovery from pandemic-induced stressors.

Michael Hopkins

Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology

Michael Hopkins is a PhD candidate in biological chemistry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine focused on explaining, through biochemistry and microscopy techniques, how cells respond to stress by studying the formation of stress granules—tiny structures within cells. His research could have important implications for understanding neurodegenerative disease progression. Prior to coming to JHU, Hopkins received a bachelor's degree in pharmaceutical science from North Carolina Central University.

Hopkins' thesis work is supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Gilliam Fellowship, and the Society for Neuroscience's Neuroscience Scholars Program. He is involved in campus diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, serving as the director of social engagement for the Biomedical Scholars Association, supporting recruitment and retention efforts with innovative social programming. Hopkins plans to pursue a career at the intersection of science, business, and policy to leverage the power of biomedical research to improve his community.

Deja Knight

Social and Behavioral Interventions

Deja Knight is a PhD candidate in the social and behavioral interventions program at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, focusing on intersectional determinants of health, HIV, and substance use in the United States, specifically in minority groups and communities with fewer resources. Prior to coming to Hopkins, Knight received a bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University, a master's degree from the University of Iowa, and a Master of Public Health degree from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where she served as an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Fellow. At the University of Iowa, she co-founded an organization focused on helping first-generation and minority students excel academically.

Knight is a graduate research assistant in the Department of International Health and the Department of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School. She is also a Teaching Council Fellow at the Bloomberg School and serves as a section counselor in the Community Health Planning and Policy Development section of the American Public Health Association. Knight was named a C. Sylvia and Eddie C. Brown Community Health Scholar at the Bloomberg School and was recognized as a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow and has received the Center for AIDS Research Adolescent and Young Adult Microgrant. Knight is passionate about promoting health equity and is committed to addressing health disparities in her research.

Alexis N. Peña

Biomedical Engineering

Alexis N. Peña is a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering with a focus on translational cell and tissue engineering. Peña researches human cell and tissue products for musculoskeletal injuries and disease. Before coming to Hopkins, she earned a bachelor's degree in bioengineering from Syracuse University as a scholar in both the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program and Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program. She also received a graduate certificate in food systems from the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Peña is a member of the Alpha Eta Mu Beta Biomedical Engineering Honor Society and a GEM Associate Fellow and was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. She has co-authored nine publications on topics including regenerative medicine strategies and in vitro cell platforms for medicine solutions. In all of her work, Peña takes a holistic approach to health care in an effort to improve health outcomes and overall quality of life.

Oscar E. Reyes Gaido

Cellular and Molecular Medicine

Oscar E. Reyes Gaido is a dual MD and PhD candidate in the cellular and molecular medicine and medical scientist training programs at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, focused on leveraging kinase biosensors for the development of cardiovascular therapies. He received a bachelor's degree from Johns Hopkins University and was the recipient of the Lee Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research for his research on dietary cholesterol metabolism.

Reyes Gaido has been recognized with a predoctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association, the JHU Graduate Student Association Scientific Presentation Award, and the Paul S. Lietman Johns Hopkins International Scholarship, as well as the JHU Diversity Leadership Award. In a show of dedication to the Baltimore community, Reyes Gaido has served as a medical interpreter, sexual education teacher, family-planning counselor, and as a liaison between the Latino community and local government. He also founded Latino Leaders in Training, which pairs underrepresented Baltimore students with medical student mentors and guides trainees to STEM careers. Reyes Gaido has also served at the national level through his role as regional community service chair for the American Medical Association, where he has lobbied for increases to mental health support and financial support for marginalized trainees. He is passionate about pursuing a career at the intersection of science and medicine to develop therapeutics that treat conditions which disproportionately afflict underserved communities.

Jonathan J. Suen


Jonathan J. Suen is a PhD candidate at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing who also trains at the Johns Hopkins Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Prior to coming to Hopkins, Suen earned a bachelor's degree from Boston University and a clinical doctoral degree in audiology from Gallaudet University. Suen also completed Peace Corps service in Kenya, teaching Kenyan Sign Language.

Suen's research focuses on identifying opportunities to promote health equity among aging populations through interdisciplinary collaborations, including with older Baltimore community members who confront social and structural barriers in accessing care. He received a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institute on Aging to study the roles of hearing health and social connections in supporting healthy aging for older adults. The first World Report on Hearing, published by the World Health Organization in 2021, cited three of his publications. He has also twice been honored for his contributions to equity and inclusion efforts by the Diversity Leadership Council at Johns Hopkins.

Marah Wahbeh

Human Genetics and Genomics

Marah Wahbeh earned her PhD in human genetics and genomics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where she focused on illuminating the impact of recently discovered genetic schizophrenia-associated variants. Prior to coming to Hopkins, Wahbeh earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Wayne State University, where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.

While at Hopkins, Wahbeh was involved in student government; diversity, equity, inclusion, and advocacy efforts; and science communication engagement with the science community who speak Arabic. Wahbeh served as the vice president of diversity and inclusion on the Graduate Students Association and chaired the Peer Collective Committee. She co-organized an inaugural multilingual seminar series in Arabic as part of her work with the Genetics Society of America. Wahbeh's goal is to engage in work that can foster her interest and expertise in science and support her desire for a team-based work environment that helps people.

Correction: Briana Bostic's area of study was misidentified in an earlier version of this article. The Hub regrets the error.