Senior Riley Damiano Selected for Fulbright Research in the Netherlands, Offered Opportunity at National Cancer Institute

head and shoulder image of Riley Damiano

Rhodes College senior Riley Damiano from Patterson, NY, has a big decision to make. She’s been offered a competitive Fulbright research grant by the Netherland-America Foundation. Does she want to accept it and work in the Netherlands right after graduation, or will she choose the award she’s been offered by the National Cancer Institute to conduct research there?

The Rhodes experience combines the best of the classroom with opportunities through internships, service, and research in Memphis and far beyond, which also gives Rhodes students an advantage in applying to graduate and professional programs and being ready for their future careers. 

"Rhodes has helped me grow immensely as a learner, community member, and leader over these past four years. My time here has shaped me as someone ready to take advantage of opportunities and able to balance different involvements,” said Damiano. “One of my favorite things about Rhodes is how students don't limit themselves in their participation inside and outside the classroom. We all have our passions, but community members make the time to encourage and support one another’s goals, whether by showing up for different events and fundraisers, cheering on sports games, or simply taking a moment to chat with one another and share words of motivation.

“I originally chose Rhodes because I felt so at home from the moment I visited the campus and appreciated the sense of togetherness the community embodied. It also amazed me how many opportunities there were on campus and nearby in the Memphis community, especially the close relationship Rhodes College has with St. Jude. I will miss Rhodes immensely next year, but I know that I will forever be able to call this community my home away from home.”

Damiano, who has a neuroscience major and a health equity minor, has conducted research for the past two and a half years at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the Department of Psychology and Biobehavioral Sciences. Through this research and a non-profit initiative for pediatric cancer research she founded in 2014, she has developed a passion for supporting families impacted by pediatric cancer. At St. Jude, her work with Dr. Lisa Jacola on the long-term cognitive and psychosocial outcomes of patients, with a focus on those diagnosed in early childhood and those diagnosed with leukemia, informed her Fulbright application to the Netherlands to pursue a master’s degree in neuropsychology while conducting research at Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology, the largest pediatric cancer treatment center in Europe.

If Damiano decides to accept the Cancer Research Training Award from the National Cancer Institute, she will be working in The Psychosocial Support and Research program in the Pediatric Oncology Branch with Drs. Lori Wiener and Sandra Mitchell. There, her focus will be managing a study to develop and validate a pediatric chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD) symptom scale that uses both qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as coordinating with the 12 clinical sites involved in the protocol.

At Rhodes, Damiano is active in student organizations including serving as a senator on the Rhodes Student Government, a member of Tri Delta, a Rhodes Diplomat for the Office of Admission, and an executive board member of the Rhodes Outdoor Organization.

“I am beyond honored to have been offered both the Cancer Research Training Award from the National Cancer Institute and the Fulbright Research Grant by the Netherland-America Foundation. I look forward to making the decision that best fits my goals for the future and will allow for my continued growth.”

Whatever course Damiano pursues after graduating from Rhodes in May, she eventually plans to earn a Ph.D. in clinical neuropsychology.