#BLACKandSTEM 09/18/14

Today’s #BLACKandSTEM topic and blog post comes from #BLACKandSTEM-er @DAlMlA (two lower case Ls) who is a graduate student investigating gene therapy approaches to treating inherited hemoglobin disorders.

Research Studies and Clinical Trials

As a graduate student in a biomedical sciences program, I understand that in order for any of the research which we conduct to be translated into something useful for human “consumption”, there needs to be several stages of rigorous testing. The final stages of this work flow are usually small scale human studies and clinical trials. However, it never really occurred to me to enroll in any of the research studies that I saw posted in the hallways of academic buildings. That is, until I took a Biostatistics class where several individuals raised their hands when asked about study participation. Since then I’ve successfully participated in three research studies and I have a screening for another scheduled for this morning.

My own participation in these studies has led me to the realization that in research studies and more importantly, clinical trials, blacks are underrepresented among the participants. With one of the studies, the only reason I heard about it was because the coordinator was specifically looking for black participants to meet the requirements.

Despite the increasing diversity of the US population, adult minorities still make up a small fraction of individual who enroll in clinical trials. In a recent paper by Chen et al (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.28575/abstract), it was found that fewer than 5% of cancer trial participants are minorities (non-white). This is especially troubling since blacks are the group with the highest incidence of cancer. Several other diseases (Sickle Cell Disease, Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease and Stroke) disproportionately affect blacks and in order for effective treatments to be discovered, we need to be enrolling in studies and trials in larger numbers.

As many are aware the medical/pharmaceutical establishment has a storied history with the black (and other minority) community both here and abroad. There is deep-seated distrust which though well founded, needs to be addressed in order for us to contribute to a better understanding of certain diseases and benefit from advances in treatment options.


Have you ever been asked to or participate(d) in a Research Study/Clinical Trial?

Are you interested in participating in Research Studies/Clinical Trials?

What do you think are some of the reasons for the low level of participation Research Studies/Clinical Trials by blacks and other minorities?

What can we as #BLACKandSTEM do to encourage members of our communities to enroll in trials and studies?


Project IMPACT: http://impact.nmanet.org/

Remember to use the #BLACKandSTEM hashtag!

Additional resources from the #BLACKandSTEM community:

Will Black People Ever Trust Clinical Trials by Danielle N. Lee @DNLee5 for Ebony Magazine online

Discussion of ramifications of the Tuskegee Experiments by National Science & Technology News Service @theDarkSci


#BLACKandSTEM 08/28/14

You walk, talk, dress, speak, or carry yourself a certain way.  You turn vernacular off and on.  You stay in constant awareness of your tone.  Even the way you laugh might be a little different depending on where you are.

These are all a part of the regular behavior for most human beings.  We adapt to the “norms” of the environments we are in.  We tailor our talk and dress for different environments.  It’s rational to an extent.  To an extent.  Because “norms” are not always right or rational.

We have talked about adjusting and code-switching.   We have discussed that fine line between adopting a certain manner in an environment in a way that is reasonably expected AND having to do too much in an environment that is just not inclusive.  We have talked about the pressure to remove a lot of who you are in order to be acknowledged and respected, and how acknowledgement and respect are not always extended.

“Respectability politics” is a phrase whose definition encompasses how people determine who is or is not worthy of respect.  As the well-degreed, proven to be intelligent and (UGH!) articulate, making contributions to advance society, thriving in environments in which few look like us – as the #BLACKandSTEM – I want to hear your stance on respectability politics.

Today’s question:  What is your stance on respectability politics?  How do they impacted you?

Remember to use the #BLACKandSTEM hashtag!

Click here for the storify.


#BLACKandSTEM 08/21/14

Today’s #BLACKandSTEM is a little lighter in nature.  In inspired by blog post’s by #BLACKandSTEM-er @GemoftheOcean today’s topic is having a social/love life as a #BLACKandSTEM-er!

Our social and love lives can encompass how we meet our need for companionship, manage stress, and add balance to our lives.  Juggles social and love lives can also come with difficulties for many reasons ranging from out work and school schedules to location and, even, our comfort with meeting new people.  We also deal with building and maintaining healthy relationships during periods of high stress and little free time.  We often say “no” to social and love lives in order to prioritize our work. 

Today’s question:  What has been your social/love life conundrum?

Click here for storify.

08/14/14 #BLACKandSTEM

My social media accounts have been rightfully saturated with events surrounding the killing of a black teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson, MO police officer.  The response to the killing has brought a number of social justice issues to the forefront.  What is happening now in a place – much like any other city in the US – that has a long, strong and deep-running history of injustice toward the black and the poor has been a catalyst for many to pose the question of:

How do we leverage our experiences, expertise, and access to resources to address the issues impacting the black community?

Answer in your own way.  Share the social justice issue important to you and what you think your (or our) contribution is and can be.

07/24 #BLACKandSTEM

This week’s #BLACKandSTEM features , geologist and educator, Ta-Shana Taylor and her physical science students!  Ms. Taylor also runs her own blog, blackgeoscientists.com.  Follow @TashanaTaylor and @BlackGeoRocks on twitter. 

Mrs. Wilson, Ms. Eckard, Mrs. Knox, Mr. Ray, Mrs. Hucks, Mrs. Sturdivant, Ms. Owens.  When I think of the teachers who had major impacts in my K-12 life, I find myself very grateful.  They made a difference.  Knowing my own journey to PhD candidacy in a STEM field, I am especially grateful to those teachers who sewed the seeds of science, math, and possibilities.

Here is the story of one of Tashana Taylor’s students:

One of the most influential teachers I have ever met has to have been my Pre-Calculus teacher Dr. Delva. During my junior year in high school I had no plans for graduation. The idea of attending college had not even crossed my mind. Dr. Delva had a goal for all of her students to achieve a secondary education. Not only did she promote intelligence and career advancement but she showed us the value of Greek life, social organizations, and philanthropy. Dr. Delva assisted me in the application process and even wrote me a few letters of recommendation. My new found passion to attend college had even allowed me to obtain higher grade letters in order to become a more competitive applicant. Thanks to Dr. Delva, a University of Florida Alumni, I will be attending the University of Florida spring of 2015! Teacher and student relationships can be the most life changing experiences and may even be necessary for K-12 students to become successful in today’s society. -S.S.

And more quotes from her class:

A percentage of students graduate without being proficient in math, science and engineering. Due to this wide range of problem, many students and [myself] owe it to the k-12 STEM teachers because of their on going influential academic supports that they provide to all students. – E.J.

…as I sat in my first science class in America, my teacher Mr. Ponkey automatically made me feel at ease. Not only did he go out of his way to make sure I didn’t get lost in the crowd, he also spoke my native language, French. It certainly took me a while to get accustomed but Mr. Ponkey offered to tutor me after school as well as spend one on one time with me during class to make sure I understood the material. He didn’t only help me succeed in English, but he also introduced me to the amazing field of science. – M.T. 

I, myself, on numerous occasions recall the struggles I endured in high school, trying just to understand the basics of Mathematics. As the struggle continued, it took a toll on my grades, many times leaving me to pass barely with a “C”. Until my senior year, I was given a math teacher by the name of Frantz Lalanne, who was determined to teach what many would not. – R.L.

For today’s #BLACKandSTEM, let’s share our stories on the K-12 teachers who influenced us and impacted our journeys to STEM.  Let’s engage with Ms. Taylor’s students and answer any questions they may have for us.

In addition to using the #BLACKandSTEM hashtag, Ms. Taylor’s students will use the #stu hashtag.  If you are an educator, encourage your students to participate also!


#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

07/10/14 #BLACKandSTEM

You might be pulling your hair out over the state of our nation’s government.  Apparently, Congress is the most divided it’s ever been, which means that a lot of important legislation is stalled.  And, remember that shutdown last year?

These circumstances demand that we make our voices heard.

Today’s chat will focus directly on matters regarding STEM.

From attempts by Congress to regulate the peer review process to Supreme Court decisions that are based on a severe lack of knowledge of science and technology, there is a pressing need to make our voices heard – not just regarding policies that impact the Black community, but also, given our collective expertise, on policies that impact STEM overall.

We, the #BLACKandSTEM, have a lot on the table.

To start the converation, one question:  What STEM-related legislative action do you want to see passed or thwarted in Congress?

The goals of this chat are to:

  1. Share perspectives regarding legislation that impacts STEM fields including jobs, funding, regulation, etc
  2. Share opportunities for getting involved
  3. Enhance the understanding of our role in impacting policy at all levels and branches of government

Remember to use the #BLACKandSTEM hashtag!

The Most Popular #BLACKandSTEM chats?

I was recently asked about the most popular #BLACKandSTEM chat. It can be tough to pick, so I decided to just use the analytics of the different applications that I use to guide me.  Click the hyperlinks to go to the storify’s.

  1. Roll calls – anytime I ask the #BLACKandSTEM community to say who they are and what they do Roll call #1, Roll call #2
  2. Tweet a pic of you being #BLACKandSTEM – self explanatory storify
  3. Anything asking #BLACKandSTEMers to share their educational background – also self explanatory – Name your institutions, Did you HBCU?
  4. Side hustle – what do #BLACKandSTEMers do away from their day jobs – storify


#BLACKandSTEM 06/19/14

Nowadays, there is a distinction of sexy as encompassing more than just sex.  To be considered sexy is to be considered desirable, alluring, and intriguing.  Individuals have different criteria for what they consider to be sexy, which is often influenced by the representations of sexy that we encounter on a daily basis.

It seemed fair that a Business Insider article wanted to show the drive, creativity, intelligence, and overall coolness that is required to be a scientist as sexy.  However, when the article featuring 50 “sexiest” scientists hit the internet, there was a collective side eye from many of my fellow Black women scientists.  In the process of attempting to show that smart is sexy, Black women were left out.  We were not found at this intersection of being intelligent and alluring.  While most Black women whose rebuttals I read were not surprised, they were, to say the least, annoyed – Black women are rarely represented as beautiful or as smart.  The many stereotypes associated with Black women are painful and demeaning, and omission – intentional or unintentional – from this list seemed like just another reflection of how deeply those stereotypes impact what we see (or don’t see) of ourselves in media.

In response to the article, Kyla McMullen (#BLACKandSTEM PhD) put out the call for Black women scientists to be featured in her own list.  And I have to say that, after watching the documentary “Dark Girls – A Look At Colorism And Internalized Racism” this past weekend, I noticed something even more resounding about McMullen’s list.  The Black women who she featured represent a defiance of the notions of beauty and allure that are common both inside and outside of the Black community.  McMullen amassed a broad representation of gorgeous Black women of different tones, features, and shapes whose resumes rival their beauty as the “thing” that makes them sexy.  

Read Kyla McMullen’s list for yourselves and answer today’s #BLACKandSTEM question:  How does #BLACKandSTEM redefine sexy?

Don’t forget to use the #BLACKandSTEM hashtag!

#BLACKandSTEM 06/12/14

There has been some ongoing interest (or debate, really), as of late, on the value and relevance of HBCUs.

Admittedly outdated data (more data, data) puts the percent of  bachelors degrees awarded to African Americans in STEM fields somewhere between 30-50% (range indicates modulation over the past 10 years).  HBCUs also appear to award STEM bachelors degrees to African American women at even higher percentages.  The majority of Black recipients of doctoral degrees earn bachelors from HBCUs, with ~30% of Black science and engineering doctoral graduates having bachelors degrees from HBCUs.  So the topic of HBCUs is very relevant to the #BLACKandSTEM community.

Today’s #BLACKandSTEM question:  Did you attend an HBCU? Why/why not?

Additional data on HBCUs:

Educational Outcomes at HBCUs

HBCU Productivity

NSF report on Women, Minorities and Persons with Disabilities

If you did attend an HBCU, consider filling your HBCU in on your successes.  Help them track the outcomes of their graduates.

Click here for storify.