QnAs: black voices in STEM

As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to surge across the country, it amplifies diverse voices from all corners of academia. In an effort to continue the dialogue about representation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), PNAS spoke to black academics from a variety of disciplines.

Mentorship and a welcoming environment are essential to maintaining diversity in STEM. Image credit: Alex Boersma / PNAS.

Angela Byars-Winston is the first black faculty member to achieve the rank of Full Professor of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She served on the higher education and workforce board of the United States National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) between 2015 and 2020 and chaired a NASEM 2019 STEM Mentorship Study (1). Former US President Barack Obama chose Byars-Winston as a “champion of change” for his efforts to diversify STEM fields.

Theoretical physicist Jim Gates served on the Presidential Council of Science and Technology Advisors during the Obama administration. Now director of the Center for Theoretical Physics at Brown University and 2021 President of the American Physical Society, Gates has co-authored a comprehensive and authoritative book on supersymmetry (2) and received the National Science Medal. He is the first African-American theoretical physicist elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences (NAS). During his tenure at the University of Maryland, College Park, Gates became the first African American to hold an endowed chair in physics at a major research university in the United States.

Evelynn Hammonds is Chair of the Department of History of Science and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. She was the first African American and the first dean of Harvard College from 2008 to 2013. Under President Obama, Hammonds was on the President’s Advisory Council on Historically Black Colleges and…

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