Here’s a gloomy stat: African Americans make up 12 percent of the US population, but earn just 2% of all doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math, and less than 2% of the doctorates in the physical sciences. To a casual observer, there would appear to be scant few role models for young blacks considering a career in science.
But those role models do exist. We created HBSciU to shine a light on them. Our hope is that by doing so, we can bring their work into the broader conversation about science—and maybe inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and inventors.
So why the focus on historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs? HBCUs share a rich tradition of training the cream of the black scientist crop. The renowned astronaut Ronald McNair, who died in the Challenger explosion, was a North Carolina A&T Aggie. Annie Easley, noted computer scientist, went to Xavier. David Blackwell, a statistician who co-developed the influential Rao-Blackwell theorem, was a Howard professor. Though HBCUs represent just 3 percent of the nation’s population of higher education institutions, as of 2010 they had produced more than a third of all black graduates in the physical sciences. Yet, the scientific contributions of historically black institutions tend to go unnoticed by the media and public.
Here at HBSciU we’ll highlight research being done by scientists of African descent and by scientists of any ethnicity who work at or graduated from an HBCU. We’ll do our best to be thoughtful and engaging: Some stories may answer questions; others may raise them. We want to start conversations.
HBSciU is an experiment—we aren’t sure what will work and what won’t. So we’ll need your help. Let us know how we’re doing. Leave comments. Send emails. Tell us what you like about the site and how we can improve it. Although we’ll do our best to find interesting topics wherever they lurk, we can’t possibly stay abreast of it all. If you know of research we should cover, or a scientist we should pay close attention to, do send us a tip.
But most importantly, enjoy the stories. To start, we’ll try to post new content weekly. We hope you’ll find something that intrigues and, just maybe, inspires you. If so, share it with a friend. Help us start the conversation.