The Dichotomy of the Black Scientist

The Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences Commemorates Black History Month with Twitter Celebration

Published in Fundamentals - Fundamentals March 2021

Black scientists exist in a space that is slowly inching its doors wider for people from underrepresented backgrounds, creating an opportunity for them to make the lab a healthier and more inclusive space for themselves and the budding Black scientists coming after them. In spite of the dichotomy of this experience, the work of Black scientists is immensely positive and powerful for the future. Black History Month, and every month, is a time to highlight this work by the Black students and faculty members at the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences as they set new standards and break through milestones that open the doors a little wider.

One such milestone was shattered by Namandje Bumpus, the new pharmacology and molecular sciences director.


In addition to their research and teaching positions, Black faculty members in the basic sciences, such as neuroscience expert Greg Carr and musculoskeletal expert Warren Grayson, have stepped into diversity and inclusion roles.


While she was still a postdoctoral student, Dionna Williams, now one of the newest basic science faculty members, cofounded the Diversity Postdoctoral Alliance Committee while she was still a post-doctoral student, to create a nurturing environment for trainees of color.


Creating environments, both formally and informally, in which Black students can be their authentic selves is critical in academia. According to Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology Graduate Program student Cory White, “It’s fulfilling to have advocates who allowed me to be my authentic self and who understood the entirety of what it means to navigate academia as Black trainees.”


And just like the faculty members they train under, Black basic science students — including Sara Haile, former Biomedical Scholars Association president — lead in diversity and inclusion roles.


But Johns Hopkins is not the only place where students are working to make science accessible for all. Many work for community organizations such as the National Science Policy Network, through which neuroscience student Thomas Burnett helps create more opportunities for underrepresented minorities.


And when the desired organization doesn’t exist, students such as Michael Hopkins, founder of Black Scientists Matter, and Pingdewinde Sam, founder of economic development and health promotion nonprofit Teebo, create them.

    Check out the Black History Month celebration thread on Twitter to learn more about Johns Hopkins’ Black basic science faculty members and students.