Three doctoral candidates named Bouchet Fellows

Honor society recognizes outstanding scholarship, promotes diversity and excellence in doctoral education

Three doctoral candidates at Washington University in St. Louis were inducted into the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society at the annual Bouchet Conference on Diversity in Graduate Education April 19-20 at Yale University.

Inducted as the seventh class of WUSTL Bouchet Fellows are Stephanie N. Rodriguez, a doctoral candidate in the immunology program in the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences; Beverly A. Tsacoyianis, a doctoral candidate in the Department of History in Arts & Sciences; and Sha-Lai L. Williams, who will be conferred a PhD from the Brown School during the university’s May 17 Commencement.

The Bouchet Society, named for the first African American to earn a doctorate in the United States, recognizes outstanding scholarly achievement and promotes diversity and excellence in doctoral education and the professoriate.

The society seeks to develop a network of preeminent scholars who exemplify academic and personal excellence, and serve as examples of scholarship, leadership, character, service and advocacy for students who have been traditionally underrepresented in the academy.

Rafia Zafar, PhD, associate dean for diversity and inclusiveness in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, coordinates the WUSTL chapter of the Bouchet Society.

“Washington University’s graduate students are known to be among the best in America; our Bouchet honorees take their place among the ranks of the highest achieving doctoral candidates in the nation,” Zafar said.


, who works in the laboratory of Paul M. Allen, PhD, the Robert L. Kroc Professor of Pathology and Immunology, studies the intricate mechanisms of T cell development and how these important immune cells mediate protection to pathogens.

Using a novel CD4 T cell system unique to Allen’s laboratory, her dissertation work investigates the dependence of CD4 T cells on self-molecules for their development into functionally mature and self-tolerant mediators of immune protection, and for continued survival in this mature state.

Her research will address longstanding questions in the field of CD4 T cell development, including the timing, number and duration of immature T cell interactions with cells presenting self-molecules, as well as directly assessing the controversial role of self-molecules in the maintenance of mature CD4 T cells.

The recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Rodriguez has co-authored an article in the Journal of Immunology.

She is director of WUSTL’s Young Scientist Program, which was created in 1991 by medical and graduate students to attract high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds into scientific careers through activities emphasizing hands-on research and interaction between young people and scientists.

She has been involved with the organization since 2009 when she joined as a mentor and tutor.

Rodriguez earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with honors in microbes and immunity from Stanford University in 2009.