Search form

You are here

Sandra Laney

Program Officer | Global Health, Discovery & Translational Sciences at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

For Sandra Laney, the operative word is opportunity. This Spencer native had no idea what she’d study when she tested the collegiate waters, taking a couple of classes at a time. She opted to concentrate in visual arts and fulfilled all her graduation requirements, except for science, a subject she feared due to an unpleasant high school experience. Fortunately, QCC offered a science class for non-majors, which became an important turning point for her.

The self-paced class included a weekly exam and group discussion or lab with unlimited access to the professors, Robert Prior and Melvin Shemluck. "I discovered that science is all about asking questions. Once I started taking it, I was so jazzed."

Dr. Shemluck opened her eyes to opportunities well beyond the walls of QCC when he informed her of the Ada Comstock Scholars Program at Smith College. At Smith, Sandra majored in biology, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree. Opportunity came in the form of a research associate position in Steve Williams’ laboratory at Smith, where she was also able to take courses and earned her master’s degree in 2002. Smith’s affiliation with Ain Shams University in Egypt eventually led to her doctorate in molecular parasitology and zoology.

In addition to her incredible academic accomplishments, Dr. Laney received an AAAS Science Diplomacy Fellowship in 2010 and a Superior Honor Award from the U.S. Department of State for establishing the NeXXt Scholars Initiative, which provides opportunities for young women from Muslim-majority countries to study science and math at U.S. women’s colleges.

When Sandra began her journey at QCC so many years ago, she had no idea where it would lead. "I am hugely indebted to Quinsigamond. Taking that science course was transformative. It completely changed the trajectory of my life," she said.