Congrats to Vanessa E. Wyche: the first Black female director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center

Wyche is also a strong proponent of innovation and inclusion and STEM education.

Shout out to Vanessa E. Wyche on her promotion from deputy director to director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the first Black woman to hold the position.

[…] She is responsible for overseeing a broad range of human spaceflight activities, including development and operation of human spacecraft, commercialization of low-Earth orbit and Johnson’s role in landing the first woman and first person of color on the surface of the Moon.

Wyche was most recently deputy director at Johnson, a position she held since 2018. Other key leadership positions Wyche has held at NASA include: assistant and deputy director of Johnson; director of the Exploration Integration and Science Directorate, flight manager of several missions of the retired Space Shuttle Program, executive officer in the Office of the NASA Administrator, and led additional center-level technical and program organizations. Before joining NASA in 1989, Wyche worked for the Food and Drug Administration in Washington D.C.

via her NASA page

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein discussing ‘The Disordered Cosmos’ on NPR’s Short Wave

Buy the book!

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is a theoretical physicist at the University of New Hampshire, specializing in questions about the earliest parts of the universe. As a physicist, it’s her job to ask deep questions about how we — and the rest of the universe — got to this moment.

Her new book, The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred does exactly that. It’s an examination of the science that underpins our universe and how the researchers seeking to understand the universe shaping us, in turn shape the science.

(via NPR)

5 things to know about IBM’s tech investment in HBCUs

A worthwhile investment.

IBM announced a quantum education and research initiative for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) back in September 2020. Then, in May 2021, it extended its IBM Global University Program with HBCUs to 40 schools. This is positive news as Black student representation in STEM is still lacking despite a rich and influential history in the sciences.

IBM put together a list of 5 things to know about those activities in case you wanted to know more.

Dr. Dóminique Kemp: the first Black mathematics PhD graduate at Indiana University

The first Black person to achieve a PhD in Mathematics was Elbert Frank Cox from Cornell in 1925.

Congratulations to Dr. Dóminique Kemp for his amazing achievement. Kemp said that he will be working at the University of Wisconsin over the next four years alongside attending the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton for his postdoctoral position.

Kemp’s achievement also highlights a distinct lack of STEM opportunities for Black students as “firsts” like these shouldn’t keep happening. But he wants to change that.

“I think a lot of students don’t go into math because it seems daunting to face the spectre of isolation, but I can play a part now that I have a degree,” Kemp told the Indiana Daily Student. “I want to create more awareness of Theoretical Mathematics because I think it made it harder for me because growing up I had no idea there was such a thing as Theoretical Mathematics research.”

(via Black Enterprise)

Find Your Bind is an app for readers to find books written by authors of colour

Naomi Adeniji and Wumi Obi are going places.

The app was created by Naomi Adeniji and Wumi Obi aiming to connect readers with books by authors of colour and show the world and its true racial diversity.

Reflecting on their project, Naomi and Wumi said:

“Irish society has become increasingly diverse yet there remain direct and indirect barriers to full ethnic equality. Our diverse culture should be celebrated, and we felt it was time to promote our BIPOC authors to a wider audience.

“Though we encountered many challenges along the way the Teen-Turn programme has helped us to build our self-confidence and pursue a career in STEM.

“Teen-Turn gave us the opportunity to explore our passion for an inclusive Ireland, and through this programme, we have moved another step forward to making it a reality”.

(via Dublin People)

NASA’s history of astronauts of colour including Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr. and Dr. Mae Jemison

Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr. became the first Black person to walk in space back in 1995.

Kristen Rogers looked at the people of colour involved in NASA’s history for CNN.

As a Black boy growing up in the Navajo Nation, Dr. Harris — now a retired NASA astronaut — said he found his passion for space when he admired the stars in the sky above him in that “magical land of grand canyons and painted deserts,” where his mother worked as an educator for the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. “And I was inspired when I saw Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed,” he added. “I said, ‘I want to do that.’”

Harris ultimately did reach similar heights: After earning his medical degree with the intent to — as he put it — “somehow, by hook or crook, find my way to NASA,” he ultimately became one of the 23 NASA astronaut applicants accepted from a pool of nearly 2,000 qualified applicants in 1990. In 1995, Harris became the first African American and Black person of any nationality to walk in space.

Urban Coders Guild are empowering their students to digitally rebuild Tulsa’s Black Wall Street

The non-profit organisation is based in Tulsa, Oklahoma and provides STEM education to middle and high school students from underrepresented communities.

“While a good many of the businesses were rebuilt after the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, none of them exist today,” says Mikeal Vaughn, founder and executive director of Urban Coders Guild, a nonprofit organization providing STEM education opportunities to underrepresented communities in Tulsa.

So the students are reimagining what they would look like today by building the websites. Along the way, they are learning coding skills and learning about a historic event that has only recently been talked about in mainstream media.

(via The 74)

Tshepo Dipheko and his chemistry in the kitchen

Delicious chemistry indeed!

A South African PhD student called Tshepo Dipheko featured in SciTechDaily a few days ago, discussing his love of chemistry and how it has helped his cooking.

Tshepo fell in love with chemistry at school: he was struck not only by the results of colorful chemical reactions, for example, “Pharaoh’s serpent”, but also by the structure of the periodic table and clear chemical equations. Thanks to chemistry, life was ordered by formulas, elements and reactions.

The passion for order and accurate measurements of powders and liquids has moved smoothly to the kitchen […]

But he claimed he wasn’t an amazing or creative cook, just a methodical one who “prepares everything with his heart” with his measurements “precisely verified in a scientific way”.

Tshepo said he is waiting for work in the chemical industry and postdoctoral research after he graduates. I’ll drink some H²O to that!

Black women made $0.90 for every $1 a white man in the same tech role made last year

A ~3.45% increase on last year’s figure

Via Hired’s latest report on wage inequality in the workplace.

That’s an improvement. In 2019, she would have made 87 cents. Back in 2016, that would have been 79 cents.

Black men made 89 cents in 2020, which represents a slight decline from the 2019 average.

Overall, companies offered men higher salaries for the same role than women nearly 60 percent of the time in 2020, down from 65 percent in 2019.

I’d be interested to know the figures for Black trans and non-binary people (if they existed).

Science Shouldn’t Come at the Expense of Black Lives

Science should help, not hinder.

Davi Pereira Junior and LOGiCFACE fave Chanda Prescod-Weinstein wrote a piece for Scientific American on the exploitation of Black people for science, centred on the land displacement of Quilombolas in Brazil for the sake of space travel:

As with the debate about the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the discussion about quilombo land rights and dignity is being framed as a discussion of science versus tradition. Alcântara is an ideal space launch site because it is on the equator, where Earth’s rotation gives rockets an extra velocity boost. In addition, Alcântara is a region that has traditionally been economically underresourced in the global capitalist economy. As with the debate about TMT, the argument goes that science is a hallowed activity and the region can benefit economically from the expansion of the Alcântara launch pad. However, as one of us argued with Keolu Fox in the Nation, the setup of science versus tradition or religion is a false juxtaposition. 

Imperial College London to launch a mentoring scheme for Black students

The scheme is said to cost around £20m.

A NEW mentoring scheme will be launched at the Imperial College London to tackle the under-representation of black students.

The scheme will offer a £5m scholarship to offer to a new intake of students as part of a wider £20m diversity scheme.

Figures show that out of more than 10,000 undergraduates at Imperial, only 235 are black. The university, one of the world’s top science institutions, says that it wants to at least double that number.

(via The Voice)

A Q&A with Christine Darden, the 40-year NASA engineer

Read this awesome Q&A with one of the greatest Black mathematicians of our time.

A Black woman who was a mathematician, aeronautical engineer and worked for NASA for 40 years researching supersonic flight and sonic booms? I stan!

Christine Darden took part in a Q&A for Quanta Magazine last month and discussed her time at NASA, Girl Scouts, and how to make fast planes quieter.

My favourite part of the Q&A:

What was it like? Did you ever talk with the male engineers in those early years?

Yes, I often did after getting an assignment. Once, an engineer asked me to complete his work by writing a computer program. It was an interesting assignment. When I finished, he said my program gave incorrect answers. I reviewed and ran it again. He laughed and said, “That’s still not right.”

I didn’t like the laugh. My work wasn’t wrong. I looked at the work he had done prior to giving me the assignment and found one sign error. When I corrected his mistake and ran the code again, the numbers looked good.

Was he gracious? 

No. But he didn’t laugh anymore.

Read the interview in full on the Quanta website.

Quanta-related: The quantum internet