Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Scientifically Long Road Ahead of Us

I’m still digging into my pile of scraps of paper. From the Los Angeles Times section called The Homeroom the name of post is called Science: not a black or brown option. That got my attention.  The instructor was trying to get students to imagine a world without Anglo Americans. It is a short post, go read it and then come back.

If you read it you might have also read the comment below the post because that is what really I want to write about today. I wanted to address the commenter's lack of access to examples of people of color in science and, by extension, mathematics.

I don’t think this has changed much since I was a kid but when I was coming up you only heard of two people, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, George Washington Carver and maybe Astronaut/Dr. Mae Jamison but she generally gets counted as an Astronaut and not a scientist. There are a few others toss in here and there but if it wasn’t for Uhura in Star Trek I’d never believe that there would be anyone of color in the future.

So I can understand how a 21st century teenager could believe that invention and innovation would stop if there were no Anglo Americans to create new products. It also reminded me why Tricia strongly wanted to have a dedicated science category on BlogHer.  It is a matter of visibility. If you can be seen you cannot be ignored or discounted out of existence.

Now I can go on a hunt to find people of color scientists. I can find women of color mathematicians. I can find women mathematicians who also happen to be scientists.  I almost don’t want to do that. Because their work isn’t dependent on who they are as much as it is what they know and what they do with that knowledge.

Me? I’m a practical women. Bottom line for me is that I need a good bug spray so can someone invent one that doesn’t make me sick or hurt the bees? (Ok, bug spray, bad for the environment. I know.)  

What really ticks me off is the fact that there is some kid(s) sitting in a Los Angeles classroom believing that there is only one group of people creating inventions or working in science. And there are teachers who don’t know where to look for contemporary scientists to work to show as examples.

Now I have to fess up that some of these sources are not all bloggers because there is a high concentration of spammers who are using the usual search terms. There is another reason. If you are doing microanatomy work on the toe bone you might not need to announce that you are a women or a person of color. It also makes that person incredibly hard to find. But not impossible.

Number Crunched and Proud

From the Math department of the University of Buffalo – Mathematicians of the African Diaspora.  Old school and text heavy much goodness to be found including Dr. Trachette L. Jackson who is a double threat with mathematics and biology in her background of study. Dr. Jackson is currently working in Mathematical Biology:

My group is interested in combining continuous and discrete approaches to derive, analyze and validate novel mathematical models of tumorigenesis.

Concha Gomez, Ph.D is a mathematician who is the coordinator of the Wisconsin Emerging Scholars program. Because of her experiences of not receiving encouragement and support in the classroom she is able to assist the next generation of math students. This is an excerpt from Science Careers/Science Magazine:

Although she fell in love with the subject, she didn't feel like she was part of the math academic community. Despite getting top grades, professors didn't remember her. When she offered solutions to math problems in study groups, students didn't listen. Gómez believed she wasn't respected or even noticed because she was a Latina and a woman. Nevertheless, she stuck with it. Gómez completed her bachelor's degree in math mainly by working independently.

On the Latino/a tip there is a list at Arizona State University that lists past and current Ph.Ds in mathematics.

Science Women

Over at the Thinking Meat Project  Mary Hrovat blogs about the brain and those things that can affect its function. She has a BA in Astrophysics with a minor in Mathematics. Sometimes really good work happens outside of the hollow walls of academia. Mary is also an example of a woman not writing about a broken heart or pining away for her soul mate.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.

An unexpected place to find contemporary women science is at the L'Oreal Foundation. For the past 10 years working with UNESCO they have been spotlighting the best scientists from around the globe that happen to be women. You can view videos of the Laureates and learn more about the diversity of their work.

Ok, that is six but it is a start. Who would you show as an scientific example or science mentor?


This post originally appeared on BlogHer.

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