Scientists of Color: Black Women in STEM Today Making a Difference

August 17, 2020 2 min read

This week we are featuring two women of color that have used STEM as a means to impact society positively. 

Maybank speaks publicly about health inequities in an effort to raise awareness and close the gap between social conditions and the quality of healthcare. She is an activist for eliminating race as a risk factor for improper medical care and seeks to spread awareness around the topic. As healthcare concerns have hit an all-time high in the wake of COVID-19, Maybank’s work is more important than ever. She is fighting against societal constructs in order to ensure the health and safety of minority patients. We commend Dr. Aletha Maybank for her efforts and for all that she has accomplished throughout her career. Dr. Aletha Maybank is an American physician and the associate commissioner and director of the Center for Health Equity at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Here she helps promote education, nutrition, safety, and affordable healthcare throughout New York City neighborhoods. Prior to holding this position, Maybank oversaw public health and safety initiatives such as increasing the accessibility of HIV testing and improving bike lanes in Brooklyn. She also was the brains behind the launch of the Office of Minority Health within the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. This department focuses on protecting people of color from experiencing health disparities.

Kate Okikiolu is a British mathematician who made major contributions to mathematics with her research on elliptical differential operators. She received her B.A. in Mathematics from Cambridge University and continued to earn her doctorate in Mathematics from UCLA in 1991, marking history as the first Black womanto do so. From here, Okikiolu’s brilliant work led her to become the first Black researcher to win a  $70,000 Sloan Research Fellowship, which is the most distinguished award for young mathematics researchers in the United States. 

Okikiolu is currently using her years of experience as a means to better societal problems, such as the educational gaps in teaching mathematics. By focusing on real-world problems and relating them to math, such as the concept of debt combined with lessons on negative values, Okikiolu works to educate underprivileged kids. This not only advances their learning of algebra but also prepares them for real-life scenarios. Okikiolu is currently a professor at John Hopkins University and a public speaker inspiring the world with her passion for mathematics. 

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