“Mentorship is so important to me because I didn’t have a mentor,” he said. “As I went through my program from undergraduate, graduate to post-doctoral, I never had a mentor. I never realized the value of a mentor because I was never approached by anyone to coach me. I didn’t know the importance of it.”
Strengthening and formalizing a mentorship program is one of Lukong’s goals as he steps into the Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies role on July 1. The position falls within the Office of Vice-Dean Research in the College of Medicine (CoM).
When Lukong learned in May that his application for the assistant dean position was successful, he was in Cameroon to educate people and raise awareness about breast cancer – one of his primary research areas.
“I was very, very happy,” he said. “I believe that I’ve been given that opportunity to shape the vision of health sciences graduate studies, and also by extension, the College of Medicine.”
Lukong is stepping into the role previously filled by Dr. Dave Cooper (PhD). He recognized Cooper’s work in the role and hopes to build on it.
“I hadn’t initially realized that there was a position (at the college) that totally aligns with my education, but also my academic and leadership experience, and administrative experience,” Lukong said.
Originally from Cameroon, Lukong moved to the United Kingdom where he received bachelor’s degrees in French and biochemistry at Keele University. He then attended Université de Montréal in Quebec to complete his master’s and PhD degrees. He completed his post-doctoral studies at Harvard Medical School and McGill University before moving to USask in 2009 as assistant professor in the department now called Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology (BMI). He was promoted to professor in 2020.
His research and scholarly work focus on breast cancer research, including signal transduction – a transmission process of molecular signals from outside to inside a cell -- and drug resistance. He also teaches courses on biochemistry of cancer, human metabolism and disease, and recent advances in the biochemistry of cancer.
“This (assistant dean) position also actually aligns with my mentorship drive, everything about EDI – which I find very, very important. Those are things that I’ve been promoting outside of the university.”
In terms of leadership, he is part of several committees in CoM, including admissions; equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI); College Review; BMI Graduate studies; Faculty Council and University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association representative. Lukong is the new director of the PRISM Proteomics Research in Interactions and Structure of Macromolecules (PRISM) Centre at USask, and the current vice-president of the Canadian Black Scientists network (CBSN). He was also the founder of Black Faculty and Staff Caucus (BFSC-USask).
Lukong’s goals for the Graduate Studies program also include ensuring that learners have a clear understanding of how graduate programs – such as Health Sciences and biomedical sciences – align with their personal goals.
He also aims to increase the number of learners enrolling in graduate studies programs, improve student stipends and establish strong connections with alumni.
“Given that the students are the leaders of tomorrow, we have to do everything that we can to make sure that they aren’t on their own,” he said. “(For faculty), it’s not only to instruct, teach and educate – but also to coach, guide and mentor.”