Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Diversity in Science #1: Black History Month Celebration

Welcome the Inaugural Edition of Diversity in Science Carnival! This carnival celebrates the people of science and engineering – those who innovate, invent, research, teach, and reach out. This Blog Carnival tells the stories of achievement and perseverance. Why is such a celebration needed? Many reasons, but as Molecular Philosophy put it best, it is to showcase the individuals of science as ROLE MODELS. I think we have a fine list of Role Models for the Black History Month edition of Diversity in Science Carnival.

The Pioneers
This section is a tribute to those who have achieved despite barriers to participation and success. What Black History Month Tribute to Science wouldn’t include at least a blurb about perhaps the most famous Black Scientist known? None. That is why I’m leading this carnival with a post about George Washington Carver, agriculture scientist and peanut product developer, written by me.

DrugMonkey really took on the science blogger diversity challenge, writing four profiles, one of which is Faces of Neuropsychopharmacology: Percy L. Julian, Ph.D. Dr. Julian attended DePauw University, but due to racial segregation he wasn’t allowed to live on campus and most of the town’s restaurants refused to serve him. He eventually found work firing the furnace and doing other odd jobs for a (white) fraternity. In return, he was allowed to sleep in the attic and eat at the house. But you can’t keep a determined person down. He graduated Valedictorian and earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Vienna.

Interestingly, many great scientists and innovators have been lost to our common knowledge of history. Lillian Nattel, a Novelist, shares with us a discarded chapter of one of her novels about 1890’s Chicago. She submitted a beautiful narrative – *An African-American Pioneer in Medicine – an account of Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, a Black Surgeon.

Another medical innovator is profiled by Adventures of a Funky Heart. Steve Catoe, an adult congenital heart defect survivor gave us a throwback post about Vivien Thomas, co-inventor of the lifesaving Blalock-Tuassig Shunt. Dr. Thomas’ story is so amazing, so inspiring that a TV Movie was made about him and his scientific achievements, Something the Lord Made, starring Alan Rickman and Mos Def.

Finally, homage is paid to a scientific pioneer in my own field, Animal Behavior - Dr. Charles Henry Turner. In fact, there are two entries about him, Charles Henry Turner: Animal Behavior Scientist by me and A Beautiful (Black) Mind: Charles Henry Turner by Black on Campus, a blog that features historical pictures of African-Americans in higher Education.

The Innovators
This section could also be called the Patent-holders, since each the profiled innovators were involved in patented inventions. Alice Pawley of ScienceWomen re-introduces readers to a pioneering innovator, Mr. Lewis Lattimer who worked with the team that invented the light bulb filament.

Chick with PhizzleDizzle, a blog about the world of Computer Science, writes about Kunle Olukoton, the brains behind Sun Niagara and server-class chip multiprocessing platform.

I am especially glad that this carnival appeals to more than science and engineering bloggers. Patent, Trademark, Copyright and Internet Law Attorney Brett J. Trout, who blogs at BlawgIT offers an amazing Top 10 African American Inventors list. He even includes a patent number of an invention of each of his finalist. Go on Brett, way to connect your blog theme to this carnival!

The Achievers
As this carnival got underway DrugMonkey made a poignant point…profiling persons more accessible or current and connecting someone who may be more “familiar to us right now can be much more inspiring than a remote genius who is in many senses an outlier or oddity”. I agree whole-heartedly. Profiling living breathing scientists is as essential as paying homage to history. And Drugmonkey introduces us to three of his/her colleagues in Drug Abuse Research: Carl L. Hart, Ph.D., Yasmin L Hurd, Ph.D., and Chana K. Akins, Ph.D.

Canadian Girl Postdoc in America holds down the Math representation is this carnival with an introduction to Associate Professor of Mathematics University of California at San Diego, Kate Okikiolu'. She further enlightens us by providing some hard statistics on the number of Black female and female recipients of advanced degrees in math.

Miriam G. of The Oyster’s Garter introduces us to Dr. Tyrone Hayes who speaks for the frogs, or rather spits dope rhymes for frogs. He is truly my kindred – science, big hair and hip-hop. And you must check out his rap about the effects of Atrazine on frogs.

Speaking of kindred spirits, Thesis with Children author, AmceGirl writes about Dr. Erick Jarvis. Like her, before becoming a scientist he was a dancer. He now studies molecular behavioral mechanisms of bird song as has a faculty position at Duke University.

Obviously, Chemical Oceanography Professor Dr. Ashanti Pyrtle is so nice, she was mentioned twice! Sciencewoman’s piece, Dr. Ashanti Pyrtle: Combining a love of science with a passion for mentoring and Miriam G’s brief bite Dr. Ashanti Pyrtle, radioactive superhero attest to her scientific hotness.

The Influencers
Nurturing and mentoring upcoming scientists and engineers was repeatedly discussed at ScienceOnline09. Many have ‘bemoaned the difficulty of hiring minorities and felt there just aren't any out there!” Then as Zuska says, maybe you need to get off your behind and start mentoring and growing some’. The following profiles are of the people who are doing or have done just that.

Thus Spake Zuska introduces us to Dr. Pamela Gunter-Smith, a Physiologist who became first a Department Chair of Spelman College and is now Provost and Academic Vice-President of Drew University. Administrative positions are equally important for career advancement, role modeling, and mentoring of new scientists, especially for members of under-represented groups.

Dr. Isis introduces us to Dr. Avery August, Professor of Immunology and Co-Chair of Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Molecular Medicine at The Pennsylvania State University. He takes his science and science mentoring seriously; and participates in a doctoral bridge program between his institution and Historically Black College, Alcorn State University in Mississippi.

Such programs that bridge connections between minority and majority institutions are key to cultivating new scientists and engineers. GrrlScientist shows and tells us all about a wonderful program - The NCCU BRITE facility with North Carolina Central University (a historically black college) in the Research Triangle.

Pat C. of FairerScience tells of the greatness of Dr. Freeman Hrabowski. Like our other influential scientists in administrative positions, Dr. Freeman is a college President and “he has been the point person in creating an environment where successful minority science students are the rule not the exception.” The Meyerhoff Scholars Program of University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC – a majority institution) is perhaps one of the most successful STEM diversity initiative programs in the United States; it certainly is the most inspiring one.

Finally Dr. Free-Ride of Adventures in Ethics and Science, shares a very personal Profile of Mentoring and her relationship with Dr. James E. LuValle. LuValle, who earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry under Dr. Linus Pauling, won a bronze medal in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and was the first African-American employee of Eastman Kodak, was also the Retired, yet retained Professor and Director of Undergraduate Chemistry labs at Stanford University. She had the opportunity to be mentored by him and learn that “she could do it” and become a grown-up scientist, thanks to his kind and patient ear and advice.

Still a long way to go
Finally, there is still more road to cover. Greg Laden recounts a few personal incidences from his life when he has come face-to-face with the lack of inclusion of African-Americans in science and science discourse.

Finally, Journeys of an Academic reminds us that too many great innovators have gone unremembered with the post about Otis Boykin. Besides the knowledge that he was an Electrical Engineer who invented the control unit for the pacemaker, very little else published about him or his other achievements.

Like Academic, I too wonder “how many other great thinkers have been abandoned by the historical record…As science, technology, engineering and mathematics generally present themselves as being more about the idea and less about the face of the person who generated the idea, how can we keep the various people from fading into obscurity?” I think discussions in real life and online (like this blog carnival) that celebrate the people of science is one way not to forget.

Join us late March/early April as Diversity in Science and Scientiae celebrate Women’s History Month and salute woman achievers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. To give you a little taste, check out Phlebotomy’s 50 Must Read Women Science Bloggers.


gregladen said...

Excellent, great job!

Pat said...

Hooray! It is very exciting to have the first Carnival up and what a great job you did!

Peggy K said...

Great carnival!

alicepawley said...

Nice carnival! Good job, DLee.

Somehow my post was left out: http://scienceblogs.com/sciencewoman/2009/02/diversity_in_science_lewis_latimer.php

Anonymous said...

Nice work! So many interesting posts to read. Thanks!

Miriam Goldstein said...

Awesome job! Can't wait to make my way through the posts!

Unknown said...

What a full post! I grew up near the George Washington Carver park and just loved going there! My daughter is hoping to take her kids there when she visits next month. :)

Arvind said...

This is a fantastic compilation. I'm still only a little over halfway through the entries - there's that many awesome ones. The sad part , though, is that out of this whole list, Dr. Vivien Thomas (he deserves the "Dr." honorary title whether he got a piece of paper or not) was the only one I had heard of before because of watching the movie. Goes to show how far there is to go as far as public perception is concerned.

Once again, huge props to you for the awesome idea and all the contributors who submitted such an abundance of inspiring posts.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick question.

I know many job vacancies claim something to the effect that "minorities with equal qualifications will be preferred". Do these really make a practical difference, or is it just PC-sounding political noise that counts for little in reality? Perhaps those who have hired or are in HR departments can comment?

By way of comparison, I almost never put my hearing loss in job applications as I don't think it's relevant to the jobs I apply for, it doesn't affect how well I do research science. (These phrases on job advertisements sometimes also include the "disabled", but to keep it on topic, answer for the race minority here, I don't want to be guilty of dragging the discussion off-topic!)

Ioanna said...

Awesome inaugural post! As a future history teacher this is an awesome reference, and I'll be passing this information along to my colleagues who will also find this to be a very wealthy resource!

Anonymous said...

Great set of links!

I actually first heard of Percy Julian on NOVA a while back:

I just love PBS...PBS and science blogs.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mi said...

I really enjoyed this post.

Anonymous said...

Sorry this is so late, but I wanted to say that this is just awesome! Thanks so much for making this happen!

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Anonymous said...

I'm thrilled to have found your blog. Thanks for the carnival posting. I learned quite a bit from it.

Anonymous said...

This post will be removed by the blog administrator, so why bother...

Unknown said...

It is a very interesting fact that many great scientists and innovators have been lost to our common knowledge of history.
History essay help

Unknown said...

Nice one, I'm gonna use this one as a guide in my next work... thanks! :-)

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