#BLACKandSTEM, What is your Endgame?

Today’s blog post and question for #BLACKandSTEM are the brain and heart child of a friend and mentor, Michael Johnson.  Briefly, Michael earned his PhD in Biochemistry & Biophysics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He is currently a postodoctoral fellow at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  Dr. Johnson runs his own science blog, BlackScienceBlog

Michael is a wonderful husband and father of two little girls.

Follow Michael on twitter @blacksciblog

So I was thinking, what is the endgame of #BLACKandSTEM. Well, first we need to understand some of the layers behind what the rally cry hashtag means to you. Is it seeing who is out there? What they do? To feel supported in your scientific craft? It probably means something slightly different to everyone, but one thing is for certain, it represents a wonderful and supportive community. So back to the original question, what is the endgame? Here is a little anecdote about what I mean.

When you do an experiment, how do you conduct it? You form a hypothesis and you test variables to see if that hypothesis is correct. The endpoint is only as good as how you test for it. In the end, “the data is the data.” Now this is a great way to find out new things, but not necessary the approach I would take to #BLACKandSTEM in relationship to the end game.

Now, how do you write a paper? What I do is I take the results from the experiments that I have done and I put them in an order to tell a story, a story for which I already have a conclusion. So I make figure 1 a-d, figure 2 a-c, figure 3 a, c, and d (I need to clean up “b”) and so on. The point is, it is a lot easier to do those clean up experiments when I know the end of the story I want to tell.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are the experiments, what is our paper? Our story? What vision do you have for #BLACKandSTEM. What figures do you have in place to make that story a possibility? How can we all contribute those clean up figures to that story so that we can reach our endgame?

First, we must know what our endgame is. Mine is to be a professor so that my presence and science will (not might, WILL) motivate a generation of people interested in science; a diversity and passion that will spark people to want to know more about science. My endgame is when other people get there, but my figure 2 is getting there myself.

So, what is your endgame, where do you see this movement going, and how can the #BLACKandSTEM community help?

-Michael Johnson @blacksciblog

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3 responses to “#BLACKandSTEM, What is your Endgame?

  1. @Alires

    Great question! My endgame is exposure and expansion of scientific thought. The endgame for exposure is to enlighten indiviuals about science – what it is and what it isn’t, the contributions of science to society, and enabling a scientifically literate population. Expansion endgame is being the transdisciplinary work that scientists themselves will engage in their own individual research. It is important that scientists learn and understand the value of working across disciplines to enrich their own research.

    #BlackandSTEM can be a forum to allow black scientists not only to create a network for themselves, but also to create a collaborative platform for their own research. Given the medium of Twitter, we have an opporunity to showcase the work that we do and inspire other minority scientists and future scientists. The breadth of application of science – from academic research to industrial R&D to entrepreneurial endeavours – provides a plethora of options that most people may not have considered as a possiblity for their career or reserach direction.

    Trained as a Psychologist, my career has been in the telecommunications industry followed by the space industry. Many people assume I am an engineer or computer scientist due to my current field. I love to share that my background is in psychology and that social science can be applied to any industry. I am able to provide a different perspective that those that have been in traditional space-related roles. I love to encourage other scientist to think outside their box as I learn more about their field. This is the transdisciplinary process I referred to earlier which is a learn and collaborate approach, not just hand-off and move on.

  2. This is a very thought provoking question and as scientists we approach our scientific endeavors with a structure and discipline that yields credibility to the outcome. However, I find in life we scientists typically do not apply the same discipline to our personal/professional lives and end up along for the ride instead of commanding the wheel.

    Great analogy regarding the manuscript preparation. As a scientist I typically find myself seeking the conclusion from the results of the experiment that is my life. However, there is the dark secret in science in regards to “putting the paper together.” The secret is that even before we get the final results, there are several experiments or results that didn’t make it into your paper or showed unexpected data that resulted in an alteration of the hypothesis or a total reversal of stance. The audience doesn’t see that but it’s real and almost everyone who has done a Ph.D. thesis has experienced this. Life is also exactly like this very few of us end up on the exact path that we set out on and that’s OK that’s life. It just means that every so often we have to sit down analyze the results and determine if we are writing the paper that we want to.

    “What is the Endgame of #BlackandSTEM?”

    Personally, the Question that I am attempting to answer for the paper that is my life is “While on this earth will you make a difference and how? ”

    The results are still shaping up, but there are several paths under investigation 1) As a cancer researcher can I make measurable improvements in patient treatment 2) As a scholar can I impart knowledgeable and uplift future generations 3) As an advocate can I assist others in narrating their story 4) Coming from a less deserving population can I improve the situation, cancer related, of those less fortunate.

    I happen to be from a country that is ~90% black, the Bahamas. Although I loved science as a child I grew up not really knowing what a scientist was or did because they were not tangible. I went to college at an HBCU and fell in love with research and have been following that path ever since. I think the most important role of #BlackandSTEM is to be tangible, to be a community so that we know who we are and so the world knows we exist.

  3. This is a very thought provoking question and as scientists we approach our scientific endeavors with a structure and discipline that yields credibility to the outcome. However, I find in life we scientists typically do not apply the same discipline to our personal/professional lives and end up along for the ride instead of commanding the wheel.

    Great analogy regarding the manuscript preparation. As a scientist I typically find myself seeking the conclusion from the results of the experiment that is my life. However, there is the dark secret in science in regards to “putting the paper together.” The secret is that even before we get the final results, there are several experiments or results that didn’t make it into your paper or showed unexpected data that resulted in an alteration of the hypothesis or a total reversal of stance. The audience doesn’t see that but it’s real and almost everyone who has done a Ph.D. thesis has experienced this. Life is also exactly like this very few of us end up on the exact path that we set out on and that’s OK that’s life. It just means that every so often we have to sit down analyze the results and determine if we are writing the paper that we want to.

    “What is the Endgame of #BlackandSTEM?”

    Personally, the Question that I am attempting to answer for the paper that is my life is “While on this earth will you make a difference and how? ”

    The results are still shaping up, but there are several paths under investigation 1) As a cancer researcher can I make measurable improvements in patient treatment 2) As a scholar can I impart knowledgeable and uplift future generations 3) As an advocate can I assist others in narrating their story 4) Coming from a less deserving population can I improve the situation, cancer related, of those less fortunate.

    I happen to be from a country that is ~90% black, the Bahamas. Although I loved science as a child I grew up not really knowing what a scientist was or did because they were not tangible. I went to college at an HBCU and fell in love with research and have been following that path ever since. I think the most important role of #BlackandSTEM is to be tangible, to be a community so that we know who we are and so the world knows we exist.

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