Dr. Richard Whittington is the HBCU-Up/HHMI Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR), Assistant Biology Faculty, and Media Technology Specialist for the Department of Health Disparities Institute for Research and Education at Tuskegee University, AL. The majority of his time is focused on increasing the number of students in STEM disciplines who are engaged in mentored, authentic research that revolves around disease prevention. In addition, his energy is geared toward activities to enhance exposure of students to science and health related issues that impact communities, creating an environment with abundant research opportunities with outcomes that impact the world. While serving as Director, the Office of Undergraduate Research has focused on three major activities (professional development, visibility, and research exposure) to enhancing student knowledge of graduate programs and research opportunities. Dr. Whittington has successfully accomplishes this with annual workshops, seminars, and conferences to create a professional environment at increases exposure and knowledge. Some of the essential activities involved research seminars by guest faculty, review of the program application process, presentation of scholarships and fellowships, professional and graduate program information, and discussion of summer internship opportunities to enhance awareness. The Interdisciplinary Meeting of Professionals for the Awareness of Careers and Training of Undergraduate Students (IMPACTUS) and Distinguished Scholar Seminar Series are held annually since 2010, involving professionals from various disciplines presenting research and knowledge to guide student toward a research-based career. The Joint Annual Research Symposium (JARS) allowed for student to present research conducted throughout the year while networking with Tuskegee University faculty, visiting faculty, and plenary speakers. As a result of outreach activities, the OUR experienced an average of 248 individual sessions made by students per semester since 2010. To enhance his connection to the community, he is an active part of the Macon County Civitan Club (Community Associate), Black Belt Community Foundation (President), and Tuskegee United Women’s League Inc (Coordinator). In addition, his background includes coordinating science academies and creating summer enrichment programs. Dr. Whittington has collaborated in educational enrichment programs such as GROW CELLS, VET STEP I, VET STEP II, Project GRAD Knoxville, AMACHI Leadership Foundation, Southeast Science Partnership, Fast Track Science Camp, and Science America Camp.
As an Assistant Professor of Biology at Tuskegee University, Dr. Whittington has focused on the disease prevent and understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms of important fish pathogens, particularly bacterial diseases of tilapia and channel catfish. Early investigations aimed improving survival rates against Streptococcus iniae and Flavobacterium columnare utilizing vaccines for enhanced resistance and the development of diagnostic techniques for early detection. Recent studies have focus on Aeromonas hydrophila in channel catfish, due to outbreaks of Aeromonad septicemia resulting in industry-wide losses of catfish totaling over 8 million pounds. He has conducted experimental disease challenges to demonstrate the virulence of this microbe and immune boosting capabilities of nutritional supplementation. In addition, his research as allow for him to expose several undergraduates to aquatic research and the techniques associated microbial disease analysis.