Earlier this month, the Aquarium of the Pacific announced the 10 recipients of their first-ever African American Scholar Program, two of which are students at Long Beach State.
Danielle Sandoval, a fourth-year marine biology major and chemistry minor, and Elishebah Tate-Pulliam, a third-year master’s candidate in biological sciences, were selected by a committee of Aquarium of the Pacific staff and community members.
Anthony Brown, Aquarium of the Pacific CFO and African American Scholar Program committee lead, said that they received “a favorable number of inquiries and applications,” which made this a “successful first” for the program.
The scholarship, which is funded through donor support, will award each recipient $10,000. In addition, recipients will be invited to the Aquarium of the Pacific to participate in several presentations, meetings and activities.
Tate-Pulliam said via email that she was initially “really nervous” about applying for the scholarship because there were “so many amazingly talented student researchers” applying as well.
But after receiving encouragement from her mom and principal investigator, she decided to apply. And eventually, she received the call.
Tate-Pulliam said she was “gobsmacked” after being notified that she was one of the recipients.
“I had to listen to the voicemail four times before it stuck,” Tate-Pulliam said. “When it finally sunk in that I had won, there were lots of happy tears.”
Sandoval had a similar reaction to receiving the news.
“I was expecting the usual ‘We regret to inform you…’ script, but when I saw that I was one of the recipients, I was speechless,” Sandoval said via email. “It was such an unforgettable moment.”
Sandoval said she decided to apply for the program because she rarely comes across scholarships that are suited for African American students in marine sciences.
This achievement means a lot to both students, who are passionate about their future work in marine sciences.
“I view this achievement as evidence of my potential and that I have an opportunity to contribute to the field of marine sciences,” Sandoval said. “In a broader sense, the achievement of myself and the other recipients demonstrates our excellence and value in STEM.”
Both students have big plans for the future as well.
“I’d ultimately like to continue my work with wetlands,” Tate-Pulliam said, who is currently working as a graduate researcher in the Wetland Ecology lab at CSULB.
In the future, she looks forward to completing her Master’s of Science degree and hopes to join more professional organizations and societies in order to share her research and learn from others.
Sandoval is currently interested in applying to Ph.D. programs. In the future, she would like to pursue a research career as an environmental scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mid-Continental Ecology Division research facility.
“I want my research to focus on the safety of chemicals for the public and prevent pollution from entering our oceans and freshwater ecosystems,” Sandoval said.
According to a press release, the African American Scholar Program was created in hopes of increasing the diversity of the field and providing meaningful opportunities to African American students in marine sciences.
Tate-Pulliam said she is optimistic about the future, believing that there will be an increase in doctorate degrees for African American students in marine sciences in the coming years.
“Programs like this are providing support that may have been considered out of reach beforehand,” Tate-Pulliam said.
An award ceremony for the recipients of the African American Scholar Program will be held virtually on Feb. 27 at 3:25 p.m. during the Aquarium’s annual African American Festival.