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Chemistry Ph.D. Student Receives Cook Award

Kamillah Kassam, a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry, has been named the recipient of the Samuel DuBois Cook Society’s 2023 Graduate Student Award, which recognizes individuals who have helped to improve relations among people of all backgrounds at the university and beyond. 

Kassam is a fifth-year chemistry student conducting research in Associate Professor Amanda E. Hargrove’s lab. During her time at Duke, she realized her passion was in increasing equity and inclusion within academia. Currently, Kassam fulfills this passion as Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on the Graduate and Professional Student Government Executive Committee. 

In the two years that she served on the Chemistry Department Committee for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community, Kassam worked with faculty, staff, and other graduate students to conduct events that encouraged community-building within the department, review planned events to ensure inclusivity and accessibility, and survey members of the department to gauge the climate of the community. Through this climate survey, Kassam was able to contribute to the positive growth within the Department of Chemistry by reviewing the department’s milestone exams with a group of other faculty and students.

Graduate School Assistant Deans Melissa Bostrom and J. Alan Kendrick nominated Kassam for the award. 

“She perceives that the most important part of her diversity work is to ensure that marginalized students feel supported,” Bostrom and Kendrick wrote. “The diversity work that Kamillah describes brings to mind the labors of the late Dr. Cook, which involved making important connections between his role on various campuses with key administrators and stakeholders.”

Cook was the first African American to hold a regular faculty appointment at a predominantly white college or university in the South. The Samuel DuBois Cook Society was established in the spring of 1997 to honor the late Duke professor.