What advice would you give to a younger Black student thinking of pursuing a future in chemistry?
You should understand why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place. Your "why" might change, and that’s okay, but you do need to have a reason – something to anchor yourself to. Because that’s what’s going to keep you going when the science doesn’t work or you’re stuck in a rut.
It’s also knowing when to ask for help, and understanding that that help may not always look like you. I had two mentors and one looked like me and one didn’t, and I got a lot of help that way. I had this idea that I would love to be mentored by a Black woman, but depending on your field you might not get that.
So seek out and have good discernment for who is going to champion when you’re in the room but also when you leave.
Ashley: I think I would say finding a support group or support team. Like Devin says, some people your support group may not look like you. However, in some cases, they still can relate. Finding a support group will mainly get you through undergrad or – from what I've heard – grad school. Find a support group – it’s really, really important.
Ayanna: Enjoy every moment of the journey. And remember if for any reason your journey veers of the path you had pursued, don’t be discouraged and really embrace that as well.
In my own journey, there's been so many times I thought my life was going to go one way, and I'm so blessed that it didn't. So take the lessons, learn and move forward.
About Devin, Ayanna and Ashley
Ayanna is co-founder of #BlackinChem, and a graduate student at Emory University. She studies the spatio-temporal chemistry and microbial interactions in the rhizosphere of plants – the zone around the roots of plants.
She carries out both experimental and computationaI research, and recently became a NASA intern with the NASA JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) in California. She’ll be creating a model that will contribute to carbon cycle research.
Devin is the founder of #BlackinChem. She is completing her PhD in mass spectrometry at Ohio State University. She develops new ionization sources for mass spectrometry using common materials.
She is currently using ordinary thread to do work in clinical diagnostics. She has worked on drug screening and is now working on disease biomarkers – using small molecules to identify the presence of conditions like obesity and cystic fibrosis.
Ashley has just graduated from Chicago State University and is in the process of applying to graduate school. She is the founder of #BlackinAstro, and cofounder of #BlackinChem and #BlackinPhysics. She studies planetary atmospheres, particularly that of Saturn’s moon Titan. She is studying stratospheric ice clouds of Titan, using IR spectroscopy to understand more about their chemistry.