Science Bloggers for Students DonorsChoose Challenge

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Diversity in Science Carnival #7: Black History Month - Broadening STEM Participation at every level

Welcome to the 7th edition of Diversity in Science Carnival. This also marks the one year anniversary of the carnival. This carnival is all about the people, institutions and ideas that work to broaden participation of all people in the STEM field via education, research, public outreach, and good vibes in general. Broadening Participation of African-American audiences at every age, every level and over time is the theme that unites all of the posts submitted to this carnival. Thank you to all of the contributors.

Start them young!
A lesson well-learned by many who are dedicated to broadening STEM appreciation to African-American audiences is to reach them when they are young. One of my newest bestest blog friends is Rue Mapp of Outdoor Afro and she does just that. In A Day of Service: Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. King, she recaps time spent on a rainy MLK day doing ecological restoration with her young children .

She is definitely on the right track. Parents who provide positive STEM experiences really make important impressions on their children. As Roberta from Growing With Science Blog explains, in Meet a Scientist: Dale Emeagwali, Dr. Emeagwali decided to study science because her parents were such great informal educators and discovery mentors.

Today's Achievers in STEM
Ideonexus is becoming one of my favorite youth-centered computer science bloggers. He and his wife of TGAW essentially run a computer-science-after-school-club-internet-cafe for the kids in their Elizabeth City, NC neighborhood. He introduces his young charges, and us, to Dr. Clarence Ellis, the first African-American to earn an Ph.D. in comptuer science.


Dianne Glave writes about African-American participation in the environmental heritage movement. In Black Heritage Month, Buffalo Soldiers, and Shelton Johnson, she introduces us to Gloryland - a historical novel by NPS Park Ranger Shelton Johnson (you may have seen him on PBS Ken Burns National Parks) about Buffalo Soldiers and includes their participation in the founding of the National Parks System in the United States.

Under the Microscope collects stories from women involved with STEM with the goal of publishing a survival guide for young women in science. They submitted several posts for this edition of the carnival. First they provide a compiled a list of Notable black female scientists and innovators which includes Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson (Physicist), Ms. Valeri Thomas (Mathematician & Computer Scientist) and Dr. Patricia Bath (Opthalamlogical Surgeon).

Next they introduce us to Dr. Estella Atekwana, a biogeophysicist at Oklahoma State University in Geoscientist probes Earth for underground life and to Shaundra Daily, A Computer Engineer links computers, emotions and education. Both of these women do some incredibly interesting research. I'm personally glad for Under the Microscope for profiling so many scientists in the physical and mathematical sciences. I'm always eager to learn more and I'm a just as green about these subjects as some of the students I encounter in real life.

And if you didn't know, let me let you tell you, the most significant contributor to medical science and microbiology was an African-American woman. She cured polio, developed in-vitro fertilization technology, went into outer-space, and helped unlock the mystery of the HIV virus; but she wasn't a scientist. Deborah Lacks' immortal mother, born Henrietta Lacks, scientific name is HeLa cells, is the woman responsible for these and many more scientific breakthroughs.

Building Bridges & Making Allies
It is also important to remember the importance of alliances when broadening participating in STEM to under-represented groups. Greg Laden never fails to disappoint to unearth key points any dig (pun intended). His post, Race and National Bias in East African Palaeoanthropology shines light on this historical under-representation of [Black] Africans as professionals in East African Paleoanthropology and how the Leakeys (yes, those Leakeys) played a pivotal role in helping to remedy the disparity.

And BikeMonkey takes us there...literally. He responds stiffly to Eric Michael Johnson's Open Letter to the Animal Liberation Front and their Supporters via Things White People Love: Comparing Black People to Monkeys. He rips EMJ for comparing the unethical medical experimental on Blacks (born of the cruelty of slavery and Jim Crow oppression) to research done on animals, in particular to non-human primates. Speaking up - against inappropriate behavior AND for inclusion of others - is exactly what is needed to create a more diverse community in science and engineering.

Related to that, Philip Alcabes discusses Science, Race, and Silence surrounding the tragic events at the Biology Department of the University of Alabama - Huntsville. Many may not have realized it, but that department was a very diverse science department. Three people were lost in the tragedy, including two African-American professors. This event choked me up, too. I share my thoughts about the incident in my post The Black History Month Post I never wanted to write.

photo credit: NYTimes.com

This Diversity in Science Carnival Edition is dedicated to Dr.Gopi Podila, Dr. Adriel Johnson and Dr. Maria Ragland Davis and thoughts and prayers extended to the families of the victims, the alleged shooter and the entire University of Alabama-Huntsville community.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of diversity in science using our carnival submission form. It will be hosted by Wild About Ants and will celebrate
Women's History Month.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Open Lab is here. Buy yours today!


Yes, the long awaited, highly anticipated The Open Laboratory 2009 Edition is here!
*trumpets blow and confetti bombs released*

Yours truly can now say I have official publishing cred and is one heckuva of science blogger, too. I'm just saying. The book, yes - a for real, printed on paper, trees had to die, ISBN stamped paperback book is available for you all to purchase.
Give the gift of science...literacy to one and all. And if you do, I am more than happy to sign your physical copy (if we meet in person).
Proceeds of the book (beyond the cost of publishing, of course) will be contributed to funds for future ScienceOnline Meetings - the science blogging conference I attend.

Buy a book, it's almost better than buying Girl Scout cookies....and you all know how much I love Girl Scouts and Girl Scout Cookies.

There should be a patch for buying Open Laboratory 2009.
(I wish I had Dr. Isis' Photoshop skillz.)
Watch your sashes. I've always wanted one of my own.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Black History Month Post I never wanted to write

In my entire college career, I have only had ONE (1) Black Biology Professor. Actually, he's the only Black Science Professor I have ever had. As a soon-to-be Ph.D. in Biology, who hopes to one day teach college biology, I see myself as part of the Future Professoriate. It shouldn't be historic for one person to earn a Ph.D. in the Natural Sciences, but it certainly can feel that way. The numbers of Blacks (and other minorities) earning doctorates in the sciences and engineering are growing, but still comprise only 1-3% of the total Ph.D.s awarded in the United States. When I find a job, I feel pretty sure that there will be at least another woman in the department (but no guarantee), and maybe other persons of color. But I am not holding my breath that I'll have a Black colleague. The numbers just aren't there and the profile of the average college or university in the average science department reflect this fact.

I can imagine how it must have felt for Dr. Ragland Davis and Dr. Johnson to be in the Biology Department at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. To be apart of a scholarly community of vibrant researchers, people of every complexion, relatively young department (many of the professors were middle-age), and to have another Black Professor down the hall - who earned a doctorate from the same university....it must have felt amazing. By all accounts this department was full of excitement and energy which I have found seems to co-occur in dynamic and diverse departments. Professors were excited about their research. They deeply engaged students and were memorable mentors. UA-H seems to be one of the most diverse Biology Departments I have ever known. It was a profile of Diversity in Science.

Then, on Friday, February 12, 2010, Amy Bishop walked into the department faculty meeting and changed everything. She disrupted the statistics, these precious statistics of diversity in science, and she changed the course of history in her life and so many others. This event was a tragedy: unnecessary violence and pain to the families of the victims; shock to students and fellow faculty; and a loss of mentors; and a loss of an exemplary department that seemed to know and value diversity and success. It is such a shame that Dr. Bishop could not counsel herself and deal with her issues - whether it was dealing with her denied tenured or her other demons. Science lost three great people and a really beautiful science department was forever changed.

Photo by Diana Toh, University of Alabama-Huntsville, via AP from NYTimes.com
From left, Gopi Podila , Adriel Johnson and Maria Ragland Davis were killed in the shooting Friday at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. Luis Cruz-Vera and Joseph Leahy were wounded.

In Memoriam
• Maria Ragland Davis was a 52-year-old associate professor of biology who specialized in plant pathology and biotechnology. She had been on the university’s faculty since 2002. Dr. Davis was a graduate of the University of Michigan. She held a master’s degree in chemical engineering and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from North Carolina State University.

Adriel D. Johnson was an associate professor of biology and had been on the faculty at the university for more than 20 years. A longtime mentor of minority students, Dr. Johnson was director of the campus chapter of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. Professor Johnson was a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. He held master’s degrees from Tennessee Technological University* and the University of Alabama at Huntsville. He earned his Ph.D. at North Carolina State University.
From the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, February 18 , 2010 Newsletter.

*This event hit close to me emotionally and geographically. Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee, is my college alma mater and I have attended classes at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Stack of Papers

Official signatures of my committee saying, "Yes, you can defend your dissertation."
Title page of of dissertation work.

Yes, it is a stack of papers, 174 pages, 38, 374 words (real close to my orginal set goal of 40,000 words, pretty good guess, eh?)

I took the stack of papers to the Graduate School, Woods Hall, UM-St. Louis. I'll hear from them soon saying that I have jumped through all of the hoops, margins and all and get the final official green light.

I'm super excited!
Countdown to defense
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
10:00 am
(I'm soliciting advise for live streaming the defense.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Still Stalking in the Snow

The SnowPocalypse isn't all bad. At least I was able to snap some really great animal tracks on my deck and in my back yard.

Cat paw prints

Notice the paw pads. Cats walk intheir own tracks, the back paws step into the same spot as the front paws, creating a single middle pad and 5 smaller pad impressions.


This cat walked the length of my backyard from the back gate (where there is a small hole), past the red bucket to the deck.
The snow is 6 inches deep at this point.
Cats are still active, even in the cold weather.

Paw print with the distinctive 4 toe pads.
Has the SnowPacolypse revealed any animal tracks in your yard?

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