Heather L. True, PhD
DEPARTMENT OF CELL BIOLOGY AND PHYSIOLOGY
Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology
David English Smith Professor of Medicine
Associate Director, Roy and Diana Vagelos Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences
2023 Dean’s Impact Award Recipient
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Heather True, PhD, led curriculum reform with a vision for launching students’ interdisciplinary research careers amid the most adverse circumstances. Part of that reform, Scientific Immersion, brings together students from varied programs with a faculty facilitator to plan experiments that advance the field. A weeklong discussion culminates in a group-written, NIH-style specific aims page, drawing from students’ diverse backgrounds and the faculty member’s expertise. True originally envisioned it as part of a “boot camp.” Due to the pandemic, classes could not be held in person in the fall of 2020. Many students couldn’t reach St. Louis or start research rotations at the onset of the semester. True volunteered to pivot and offer Immersion virtually as part of the fall onboarding experience. She recruited faculty, solicited topics, assembled student groups and launched Immersion in a Zoom-based world. The most impressive aspect is that it was lauded by both students and faculty. Students raved about the experience as an incredible launch to their graduate (and social) careers. Microbiologists got excited about neuroscience and vice versa. Immersion sharpened students’ confidence in approaching fields of research beyond their comfort zone — a key to research that creates new knowledge. Leadership knew that True was onto something special and supported the 2021 effort by expanding Scientific Immersion to all DBBS students in all programs. With the return to in-person learning, this innovative program remains a critical element in the onboarding experience of PhD students.