Talmesha earns her PhD from Johns Hopkins!

Congratulations to Science Cheerleader Talmesha, Science Cheerleader who cheered for the Washington Redskins. She already has a B.S. Chemical Engineering and a B.S. Mathematics. Now, she has a brand new Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Medicine from Johns Hopkins! Here’s an encore of her online interview originally posted last month.
So…why science?
My love for math began in the third grade. My teacher, Mrs. Brown, noticed that I was using my fingers during the multiplication quiz. She pulled me aside after class and said “You don’t have to use your fingers. There are tricks that can help you with that.” She then proceeded to teach some of the tricks used to solve multiplication problems. She opened me up to a world where math was fun and at that point I was hooked.
Can you please tell us a little more about your degrees?
I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) in 2004 with a B.S. Chemical Engineering and a B.S. Mathematics. I am currently writing my dissertation on Polyamine Analogues as Novel Anti-HER Family Agents in Human Breast Cancer. I just graduated with a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Medicine from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Favorite courses you took to prepare for your degree?
In college my favorite courses were Calculus and Physics stemming from my long-term love for Math. In graduate school my favorite course was Introduction to the Human Body. I loved this course because I am a visual learner and allowed it allowed me to be hands on.
Tell us about the teams you’ve cheered for, how long you’ve cheered for them, and why you tried out to be a professional cheerleader.
During my undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) I danced with the UMBC Dance Team. My coaches were former Washington Redskins Cheerleaders. I had the opportunity to perform at FedEx Field with my college dance team at Redskins halftime shows. One of the highlights was during Monday Night Football. I will never forget the bright lights and cheering fans. At that moment I thought to myself: “Halftime isn’t enough…I want to experience this energy the entire game.” I auditioned for my local NFL team, the Baltimore Ravens, three times before making the team. It was a great experience and stayed with the team 3 years. I then decided to audition for the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders. I had been with the Redskins for 4 years and 2012 was my first year as a co-captain. As a Redskins Cheerleader I accomplished one of my many goals, participating in military tours. Each year our team makes multiple trips abroad to show appreciation to our troops.
Talmesha Washington Redskins Science Cheerleader EingeerWhich came first? Your interest in science or cheerleading?
My love for math came first and was quickly followed by a love for science especially math based science. I did not begin cheering until college. UMBC did not have a cheerleading team at the time, so the dance team served as he the cheerleaders for the basketball team. My love for dance started while I was in elementary school. In my neighborhood we would have impromptu dance contests and I would routinely win against older kids and sometimes adults.
What’s a typical day like for you?
My days currently consist of writing my dissertation and completing some experiments. Most of my graduate career would go as follows: I leave my house early in the morning. Once in lab I set up experiments using breast cancer cells in dishes. I treat these cells at various drug doses and test for the drugs’ ability to inhibit cell growth and initiate changes in pathways that have been associated with cancer. In between experiments I attend classes required for my degree and sometimes attended seminars from visiting lecturers. I then drive one hour to FedEx Field for Redskins practice. During the drive I listen to a CD of music for our routines and review the routines in my head while driving. Once at the stadium I have rehearsal with my line before practice officially begins. At the beginning of practice our director presents us with the night’s agenda and we then proceed with accomplishing those goals. Practice is usually three hours long or however long it takes us to master the routines. Afterwards I drive home and listen to the CD of music again to review that night’s material.
Best part of your day job or studies?
The best part of my studies is knowing that the research I am completing can potentially have an impact on the future of how breast cancer is treated.
Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered you?
Talmesha: I believe stereotypes have helped my professional experiences and made more resolved to chart my own path. You will always come across people who don’t necessarily agree with how you live your life and you cannot live your life for others.
Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream and another?
You will have to make many decisions in life and you will not be able to please everyone. At the end of the day you have to wake up and be pleased with yourself and the life you live. Living your life for others will only lead to regrets. Commit yourself to a life of no regrets and it’ll take you a long way. You’ll never have to look back on your life and say I wonder if…
Along these lines, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Talmesha: I would give myself the same advice my parents have always given me: Follow your dreams and chart your own path. Whether that’s obtaining a Ph.D. or participating in a pageant, it’s your dream and don’t let anyone invalidate your dreams.
What are your plans for the future?
I would love to have a non-profit organization that incorporates all of my passions including science, dance and community service.
Best cheerleading experience?
My best cheerleading experiences involve boosting the morale of troops both locally and abroad. As a Washington Redskins Cheerleader I have participated in multiple military appreciation tours. It is truly humbling to spend time with the troops and see firsthand the sacrifices they make to keep us safe every day.
Best science-related experience?
My best and most memorable experience was in elementary school. After winning my school’s math bee I participated in the City-wide math bee. I recall the defending champion’s mother walking up to me before the competition began and saying that I wouldn’t win because I was a girl and I was Black. I used her negative words as motivation and won that competition.
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I love to eat. One stereotype about cheerleaders is that we do not eat. Cheerleaders are athletes and all athletes need fuel to perform at a maximum level.
Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
I want to be a Science Cheerleader in order to be a role model to every little girl out there who loves math and science but is also passionate about non-academic ventures such as dance and cheerleading.

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