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Former Alcorn football player passes candidacy for doctoral degree exam

Walter Jackson Bridge to Doctoral Program

Walter Jackson III.

Dr. Bettaiya Rajanna, professor and chair for the Department of Biology/director of ASU-PSU Bridges to Doctoral Program, recently received an email from his former student, Walter Jackson III, with great news. Jackson, a participant of the ASU-PSU Bridges to Doctoral Degree Program, has successfully completed his candidacy exam for a doctoral degree at Penn State University, one of the nation’s top research universities.

The candidacy examination is a big step that graduate students have to complete to move to the next level in pursuit of a doctoral degree. Now, having completed this examination, Jackson has to finish up his dissertation research followed by dissertation defense. This will qualify him receive a Ph.D. in immunology and infectious disease.

“There was a time when Walter was hesitant to continue his studies at Penn State, but encouragement and support made him stay in the program,” said Dr. Rajanna.

“I appreciate the opportunity that the Bridges program gave me and the help by Dr. Rajanna, the Department of Biology, and the ASU-PSU Bridges to Doctoral Degree Program,” stated Jackson, a Shreveport, Louisiana native.

Both Jackson’s parents, Bobbie and Walter Jackson are Alcorn Alumni (class of 1974). Walter graduated valedictorian from Huntington High School in 2003 and then went on to study at Alcorn continuing the family tradition. While an undergraduate student at ASU, he was a member of the Braves Football team from 2003 to 2007 starting offense tackle in 2005. Jackson received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 2007 and master’s in biology in 2009.

During his tenure at ASU, Walter participated in a mandatory research internship program at Penn State working on research in neuroscience in the laboratory of Dr. Anne Andrews, who is now a professor at UCLA. After receiving his master’s degree in biology from ASU, Walter transferred to PSU as a graduate student in June 2009. Currently he is working under the guidance of Dr. Andrea Mastro on the research titled “The role of Megakaryocytes in Breast Cancer Metastasis to Bone”.

In January 2011, ASU received a new five-year award from the National Institutes of Health to continue this very successful and highly visible program.

“As of now, there are seven ASU students enrolled in this program studying at Penn State,” stated Dr. Rajanna. “With this new award, we will be able to recruit three new students each year. By the end of the current award period, a total of 23 Alcorn State graduates will receive doctoral degrees in various areas of biomedical sciences.”

Students interested in the ASU-PSU Bridges to Doctoral Program are encouraged to contact Dr. Bettaiya Rajanna at 601-877-6681 or Dr. Robert Sizemore at 601-877-6677.