For the past 20 years, Dr. Charlie Wilson has been a faculty member at Delaware State as part of a career that has also included stops at the University of Delaware (1988–94) and AstraZeneca (’94–97). A former wrestler and track athlete for the Hornets, Wilson holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from UD. At Delaware State, he is the interim dean of the College of Mathematics, Natural Science and Technology, as well as the chair of the Department of Biological Science. He spoke about the school’s research efforts and the effort to increase diversity in the biosciences.
Q: Can you provide a profile of the biosciences at Delaware State?
Dr. Charlie Wilson: We have six or seven researchers in neurosciences out of about 14 faculty members in the department. They are working on several things, including Alzheimer’s research, Parkinson’s research, and some are looking at neuro behavior in different conditions.
Q: How has the department grown and changed over the past few years?
CW: We’ve changed a lot. We have lost some and gained some professors, but we are stable right now.
Q: How would you describe the work your department is doing with gene therapies?
CW: We are looking at genes as part of a pathway and how genes are talking to each other. We use that to deduce some patterns for therapeutic interventions. Because we are able to manipulate cells at a single-cell level and look at their behaviors at that level, we are able to find good targets for interventions.
Q: How are you looking at increasing diversity in the biosciences?
CW: We are finding strategic and deliberate ways to get students. The main barrier is money. We are using RISE (Research Institute Scientific Enhancement) grants and seeking other external funding. We are able to support more and more students through external funding. We received a $1.85 million research educational grant to provide tuition and stipends for masters and Ph.D. students.
Q: How are you working to get younger students interested in science?
CW: Sometimes, we have to use disease as a hook. We can teach students about a disease and then the molecular biology behind it. The students don’t always know about the biology, but they know that their grandpa had a certain disease and then become interested in the biology behind it. When I was an undergrad, my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and I decided to get into biology because of that.