Cultivate Fellowship

Building a more equitable company, technology, and society

We established the Cultivate Fellowship to fulfill our commitment to building a more equitable company, technology, and society.

Black STEM scholars report high rates of isolation as one reason for high rates of attrition. The Cultivate Fellowship is our attempt to help alleviate this barrier and reduce the marginalization of Black students in STEM. It fosters professional networking, career planning exposure, and stipend-based support to help Black STEM scholars persist. The fellowship cohort will visit the Boston offices of Ginkgo Bioworks to engage with each other and scientists in STEM.

Our Cultivate Fellowship Program

The Cultivate Fellowship is open to any Community or Junior College vertical transferee or rising Sophomore or Junior in good standing interested in pursuing a STEM degree. Our inaugural cohort included students from 12 schools, including three HBCUs and one Community College.

Although Ginkgo houses a vibrant community of scientists and engineers, we recognize that there are career paths available beyond our walls. By partnering with other organizations, we aim to expose students to a broad range of experiences and career paths in STEM degrees that are open to them.

Most importantly, Cultivate Fellows are not required or expected to have an interest in Synthetic Biology. The fellowship is open to students from a range of STEM disciplines. Our inaugural cohort included students interested in:

Computer Information Systems

Computer Science

Biology Pre-Med

Automotive Engineering

Biomedical Engineering


Molecular Biology

Psychology (with Neurobiology concentration)

Cultivate Fellowship Career Path Exposure

Over the course of their residence at Ginkgo, Fellows received tours of Ginkgo. They were introduced to our team and to leadership. Fellows were also given opportunities to learn more about various career pathways a STEM degree could open to them. The full itinerary is available here.

Included over the course of their visit were presentations by:

  • Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks on the intersection of STEM and legal careers
  • The US Army Corps of Engineers who presented on engineering opportunities
  • Harvard Medical School where Fellows toured a hospital ER, learned about disparities in health care minorities face, and participated in hands on-learning to include a suture lab

Professional Development

In conjunction with Black Queer Town Hall, BioBuilder, and Ginkgo’s Talent Acquistion and Professional Development Teams, Fellows received:

  • Resume review and update guidance
  • Individualized career path planning
  • Guidance on how to build meaningful mentorship relationships

In addition, Fellows had access to panels of Black STEM Entrepreneurs and Young Professionals and a session on Developing Your Superpower to help Fellows find power in their experiences to leverage in their academic and professional pursuits.

Transforming plasmids into a couple of strains of E. coli.

Current Fellows


Ann Nicole Frimpong

Hunter College ‘24
Biology Pre-Med

Ashanti Lane

University of West Georgia ‘25
Biology Pre-Med

Ayo Ogunsanya

Princeton ‘25
Computer Science

Darelle Menendie

Northwestern University ‘24
Biomedical Engineering

Divine Ogugua

Edwards Waters University ‘24
Business Administration in Computer Information Systems

Johnathan Lee Hancock

Sargeant Reynolds Community College ‘26
Automotive Engineering

Kazmin Perkins

Xavier University ‘24

Lataysha Walker

Xavier University ‘24
Biology Pre-Med

Melak Senay

Washington University St. Louis ‘25
Computer Science and Economics

Michael Johnson

Howard University ‘25
Computer Science

Segun Olutade

Jackson State University ‘25
Computer Science

Victory Yinka-Banjo

Massachusetts Institute of Technology ‘25
Computer Science and Molecular Biology


Bailey Williams

Pomona College ‘26
Computer Science

Collins Ilechukwu

University of Tennessee ‘25
Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering

Damy Akinyemi

Tufts University ‘26
Community and Global Public Health

Dion Williams

Southern New Hampshire University ‘25
Computer Science

Forever Akpabio

Carnegie Mellon University ‘25
Electrical and Computer Engineering

Jesse Okoche

Yale ‘25
Mechanical Engineering

Joanna Menendie

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign ‘26
Biology Pre-Med/Animal Science

Naomi Zecharias

Massachusetts Institute of Technology ‘25
Mechanical Engineering, Biomechanics, and Biomedical Devices

Nicolette Johnson

Fayetteville State University ’25
Computer Science

Ore Owoseeni

Fisk University ‘25
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Rita Osi

Jackson State University ‘26
Computer Science

Networking and Connection

Aside from the formal programming, Fellows met with Ginkgo’s Katherine Johnson Affinity Group for Black Bioworkers, attended a company BBQ, and joined a bowling event with the Affinity Group.

Continued Support

At the end of the program, Fellows will each receive an individual Mentor to support them as they continue on their educational pursuits as well as a $3000 annual stipend to support their success until graduation*.

Perhaps just as importantly, the Cultivate Fellowship fosters community. Fellows leave with a network of peers and professionals they have met throughout their experience to help support and encourage one another as they return to their communities.

*Annual scholarship is dependent upon Fellows remaining academically enrolled in good standing and validation of participation in mentorship program. Scholarship is renewable up to three years. Other stipulations may apply.

Cultivate Fellowship

Applications for 2023 are now closed and will reopen for 2024 in November.