Zachary Mackey, Ph.D.,
recently earned his
Doctor of Philosophy
in Molecular Medicine.
Returning to his hometown, Mackey worked at a virus reference laboratory and took refresher classes in basic science at The University of Texas at San Antonio, hoping to eventually attend graduate school and pursue his dreams of scientific research.
Shortly after he finished the refresher courses, Mackey was hired as a research assistant at the Health Science Center's Institute for Biotechnology (IBT) for Barbara Christie, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine. Working with Dr. Christie provided Mackey with hands-on experience in basic science research and the molecular techniques he would need to know to move forward in the field.
"Just by chance, the IBT was starting its molecular medicine graduate program at that time. I wanted to give graduate school a try because I liked the work I was doing, but not the level at which I was working," Mackey said. "I didn't want to be the research assistant. I wanted to be the researcher."
Getting accepted to the IBT's program was not easy. Mackey had a lot of convincing to do, but his determination was evident to Z. Dave Sharp, Ph.D., who served as graduate student adviser for the graduate program.
"I knew I could do it, so I stayed around the lab and watched what everyone was doing. I learned everything I could. Then I applied to the program and I prayed," Mackey said.
In the fall of 1993, Mackey was accepted. He followed with doctoral research work at the IBT in the DNA repair field, with Alan Tomkinson, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine.
In 1997 Mackey was awarded the Howard Hughes Foundation Grant for Minorities in Science totaling $22,250, and the Merck/United Negro College Fund Grant for $25,000, with an additional $15,000 for supplies to continue his research work.
In February, he became Dr. Mackey, receiving his Ph.D. in molecular medicine. He is now at the University of California at San Francisco for a postdoctoral fellowship.
"The faculty at the IBT have given me the opportunity of a lifetime," said Dr. Mackey. "I knew this is what I wanted and I did not give up. You have to be persistent. If there is a barrier in the way, go around it or move it."