Strong Woman, Strong Scientist: Khalifa Stafford, Roots & Shoots Alumna


Khalifa Stafford dreams of one-day using stem cells to treat psychiatric and developmental disorders. Her passion for science has been a constant for most of her life and much of her drive to create change in the world stems from finding a role model in Jane Goodall. According to Khalifa, “Roots & Shoots placed within me a sense of hope that no matter what my life’s circumstances may be, I could achieve anything I put my mind to.” With that mindset, there is no limit to what she will accomplish.


Khalifa (left) with Dr. Jane and a fellow Roots & Shoots Youth Leader circa 2008

A proud woman of color in STEM, Khalifa is committed to a career in biomedical research. She is currently a research technician in a lab that unites neuroscience and genetics, studying psychiatric and developmental disorders with a specific focus on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Khalifa came into this position having been granted a scholarship by the National Institutes of Health’s Undergraduate Scholarship Program for underrepresented students to secure research jobs with NIH after graduation. On her path to studying the the effects of alcohol exposure on genes, Khalifa conducted research on nutrition and metabolism by comparing metabolic data between human and great ape populations.

Khalifa&RSgroupDuring her four years in Roots & Shoots, Khalifa attended the 2008 Global Youth Summit in Orlando, Florida where she met with new friends equally dedicated to bettering their communities locally and globally. Through her experience at the summit, Khalifa “gained a sense of hope that “if ‘we’ as youth came together, we could indeed make a difference.” This environment was a prelude to working collaboratively with fellow researchers.

Another truly life-changing experience for Khalifa happened when she got the opportunity to travel Tanzania with the Jane Goodall Institute. The landscape and the people of Tanzania inspired her “to be more grateful for what I have, more caring towards other people and things, and to be more hopeful.” Observing chimpanzees in the same forests where Dr. Jane conducted her chimpanzee research fostered powerful connections for Khalifa. Her takeaway from the trip was that even where people have few resources, they can have incredible heart.

I learned to be more grateful for what I have, more caring towards other people and things, and to be more hopeful.”

Khalifa is a leader in her community, in her workplace, and as a mother. She is a firm believer that if you are really passionate about something, there is always a way to make it happen! Using her Roots & Shoots training along her journey elevated her as an example of compassionate leadership, encouraging others to fight to accomplish their goals reminding them to give their all to their causes and their dreams.


The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.

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About Author

Susan Janowsky is a Jane Goodall Institute Roots & Shoots intern and current senior at Tufts University studying Art History and Anthropology with a focus on Human-Animal Interaction. On campus she is involved in Tufts Animal Welfare, Hillel, and Ski Team. Her passion for animals and conservation has led her to where she is today. Susan has been on an archeological dig in Belize, worked with camels in New York, and has a very handsome labradoodle, Pepper.