Fall 2021 COSAM Highlights


Special Edition:

Fall 2021 COSAM Highlights



OIED Staff Highlight: Brittany Pomilee

         Brittany Pomilee, M.Ed., just completed her internship with the OIED, where she has been an invaluable member of our staff. Having graduated in early May from Mizzou with her Master’s in Student Affairs Leadership, she is currently on the job hunt for a position where she can continue to serve students in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Student Affairs.


        Brittany has lived in Missouri since before she was a year old, and grew up in a predominantly-White town of around 500 people in a rural area of the state. She attended Maryville University for her Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Pre-Med, with a Minor in Chemistry, and while there, she was highly involved in various organizations. Furthermore, another meaningful aspect of her time at Maryville was that she was able to expand upon her Black identity as part of a more diverse community.

        Walking in, she already knew that she would be pursuing a career as a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon. What originally inspired Brittany to pursue surgery was her infant experience of an episode of ITP, a rare disease that results in one’s blood not being able to clot, but fortunately a surgeon was able to identify the issue. “He saved my life,” Brittany said, “and I wanted to do the same for others.” However, she so much enjoyed her experiences outside the classroom in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work, and with some encouragement from mentors, she forwent applying to medical school and instead went to Mizzou for her M.Ed.

         “My passion became more evident as I started to discuss [DEI work] within Student Affairs,” Brittany said about her decision. In fact, her Master’s program is what brought her to Auburn, albeit virtually, over the past year. When asked about what her most meaningful experience was while working with the OIED, she laughed, “there was a lot!” She particularly valued becoming close with the STEM Summer Bridge student group that she led, helping students continue their educational journey through the STRIPES program, and is excited to see how the OIED and its programs will continue to grow. She finished by speaking about our students specifically: “I’m just really eager to see how they pave the way.”


Alum Highlight: Dr. Ebony Jackson

        Dr. Ebony Jackson, PharmD, CSP, currently works as lead Clinical Specialty Pharmacist at Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Teaching Hospital that serves the Boston, MA area. Prior to holding this position, she attained her undergraduate degree from Auburn before attending Auburn’s Harrison School of Pharmacy to earn her Doctorate of Pharmacy.


        Dr. Jackson’s road was not always the easiest, however. Growing up in rural Thomaston, AL as the child of a Registered Nurse (the only one living in this area, she specified) and with her trusty microscope by her side from the age of six, Dr. Jackson always saw the practice of medicine as how one helps their community. “This is how you serve,” she recalls thinking at the time. However, despite graduating co-valedictorian of her high school class, her pre-Auburn education lacked in some ways preparing her for the rigorous COSAM curriculum. “It’s tough to come in and excel when you have a deficit,” she mentioned when speaking about failing an early physics course, before quickly moving to compare COSAM to a personal trainer: She said that it was hard, but worth it, and “you’ll be sharper because of it.”

        Dr. Jackson highlighted some specific extracurricular involvement that helped her to feel like a part of the Auburn family. For example, joining the AKA sorority and working as both an undergraduate worker and graduate assistant for the Office of University Outreach were especially meaningful. About working for Outreach, she said she was “able to start to give back to the Black Belt community,” and that she “can’t understate those experiences’ impact,” on her overall Auburn experience. She also met her now-husband in the Auburn Gospel Choir, which probably didn’t hurt her sense of belonging, either.

        About Auburn, Dr. Jackson said, “I’m so proud of my education, my experiences [in COSAM]. No matter how hard they may have been, it made me who I am. The things I learned I carry with me.” She finished, specifically addressing students, "It's not where you start, but where you end up that matters. Regardless of your background, you can work hard to position yourself to make a difference." We’re so proud to call Dr. Ebony Jackson a COSAM alum.


Faculty Highlight: Dr. Vincent Ortiz

       Vince Ortiz, Ph.D., is the Ruth W. Molette Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Auburn University, but his relationship with the Chemical sciences began long before his tenure at Auburn. Growing up, older friends of his gifted him chemistry sets, in addition to his older brothers leaving him their chemistry textbooks. He would often take his allowance money to the local stationery shop that sold vials of chemicals, return home with his haul, and conduct experiments to see if the information in those textbooks were true!


        Today, he has moved beyond his home chemistry experiments to specialize in Quantum Chemistry, which examines how electrons and nuclei get together, make molecules, and acquire their fascinating properties. “The molecular scale is likely where the ‘action’ is, if you want to do something practical beyond just observation,” Dr. Ortiz said about why he chose his specialty. Indeed, he said that this practical consideration is the reason why so many other sciences include basic chemistry in their curricula. Dr. Ortiz conducts research and teaches, but made sure to clarify that when he’s doing research, he’s teaching, too. “Auburn is a big, public, land-grant University that offers an advantage to students in that faculty tend to be researchers,” he said, further highlighting the overlap of the two duties, but also showing that Auburn faculty are on the cutting-edge of scientific discovery and can offer students the opportunity to join them there.

        Dr. Ortiz also offered valuable advice to students, both current and prospective: “Be patient with your education.” He went on to say that a student’s overall achievement is much more related to their dedication and diligence rather than their “native ability.” Many students are not immediately successful, and that’s okay. “Among the Nobel Laureates are English majors,” he said with a smile, and specifically addressing those who are underrepresented in the sciences, he encouraged reading up on accomplished scientists who hold the same identities as you. He said you’ll find ex-servers, non-traditional students and people who found their purpose in their 30’s or even later. “Some of the most valuable and accomplished citizens in this community of scientists are people who have that kind of story.”






By Matt Gonzales


I'd like to thank Brittany Pomilee, Dr. Ebony Jackson and Dr. Vincent Ortiz for sitting for an interview with me.