Stars of Stanford Medicine

Tiana Moore


Stanford Biosciences

Tiana Moore helps minority students feel at home in the Stanford Biosciences PhD program.   

Tiana Moore is passionate about cooking. She grew up helping her mother and grandmother in the kitchen. As a third grader, she wrote a business plan for a milkshake business. And she loves binge-watching cooking shows on the Food Network, where she’s learned that one thing that makes a great chef is knowing how to put together a diverse menu of flavors, textures and colors that surprises and delights.

Getting the right mix is what Moore does in her day job, too, as she manages the recruitment and retention program for minority students who want to pursue PhD degrees in Stanford Biosciences, home of the burgeoning fields of biochemistry, biology, biomedical informatics, biophysics, cancer biology, chemical & systems biology, developmental biology, genetics, immunology, microbiology & immunology, molecular & cellular physiology, neurosciences, and stem cell biology & regenerative medicine.

The “main course” of Moore’s efforts is the ADVANCE Summer Institute, an intensive 8-week transition program for incoming minority graduate students. It provides participants with an opportunity to begin their research projects a quarter early, so that they can get to know the faculty and postdoctoral students before fall classes begin.

“It also provides these students with a cohort of friends at the start of the year, so that they don’t feel the isolation that can come from feeling like a one-of-a-kind in a classroom,” said Moore.

Last year she launched a new African-American, Black and Caribbean student recruitment program, called ABC for short, aimed at boosting the enrollment of this unrepresented group at Stanford. Her proposal included partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and innovative approaches to engaging students early in the academic pipeline.

Moore appreciated the creative freedom that she was given in designing this initiative, saying “This program was something that fell outside my job description and it was completely new. But my manager really advocated for me and helped me get funding.”

Tiana is truly the heart of our office and diversity programs

“Tiana is truly the heart of our office and diversity programs,” said Terrance R. Mayes, EdD, Associate Dean and Director of the Office of Graduate Education & Diversity Programs. “During Tiana’s two-year tenure, underrepresented minority student matriculation was 28% for the 2015-16 academic year, up significantly from the 10% average seen over the last decade.”

Throughout the year, Moore organizes mentoring, career and academic advice, funding assistance and research update meetings for the students. She says that community-building activities help keep these students from dropping out when academic pressures build.

“Thinking about a student’s life as a whole, not just as a scientist, is really important,” says Moore. “I make myself available for frequent conversations about an issue or problem they’re having, letting them see there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

For example, she said that the recent “Black Lives Matter” controversy deeply affected some of her students: “When you know that people who look like you are being killed in the streets, it’s an added stressor. It’s hard to focus.”

And not surprisingly, one way that she diffuses student tensions is by organizing social events around food and home cooking.

Looking back on her eight years at Stanford, she added, “The students who I work with are fantastic. I’ll have a really tough week, but as long as I take a break to have lunch with one of my students, I feel much better. I get my energy from my students.”    

Story and photo by Kris Newby.