“I’m excited to experience New Orleans and all it has to offer: Its history, its landscape, and of course, the great food.”
Camellia Moses Okpodu, Ph.D., the new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for Xavier University of Louisiana, says she’s looking forward to many aspects of living in New Orleans after spending the last several years in Norfolk, Virginia: Heritage, history, culture.
“There are so many unique bugs to look out for,” she says with a laugh. “And all the other critters out there.”
That’s a fitting thought for a career biologist — even one who didn’t study wildlife. Dr. Okpodu leaves her post as Professor of Biology and Director of the Group for Microgravity and Environmental Biology at Norfolk State University. She has a B.S. in Biochemistry and a Ph.D. in plant physiology/biochemistry.
“I’m very humbled by this opportunity of being part of a historically black college and university. And being part of a university that has the same core value and same core mission that I have, which is to have global citizens that are both just and humane,” she says.
Dr. Okpodu has spent the bulk of her research career on environmental topics, including climate change. She was awarded a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to study how plants change in response to increased salinity from coastal erosion and the resulting seawater infiltration. So, her position at Xavier will put her on the front lines of this issue.
“I’m working to understand which plants we might want to put in the landscape in response to differences in coastal flood plains,” Dr. Okpodu says. “I’m really interested in comparing the data I’ve collected in Norfolk to what I will learn in New Orleans. I want to get the students involved too, and the community, to do citizen science.”
Even with a career full of accomplishments in a field underrepresented by women of color, Dr. Okpodu says her proudest achievements lie outside of her career. “I’m proud of my academic record and my scholarship, but I’m most proud of being a mother of three daughters who are raised primarily by myself with the help of my mom and family.”