Current Views

"Sistahs" Are Doing It for Themselves

WOMEN OF COLOR are still underrepresented in the sciences, but the fifty in Sistahs in Science are doing their part to change that situation. These current and potential science majors come together monthly to encourage each other in pursuing science as a profession. They discuss course choices and trade tips for finding scientific internships and jobs.

Chemistry professor Sheila Browne is mentor to the group, and uses grant funds from the General Electric Foundation to help Sistahs attend scientific conferences and networking events. "Ms. Browne coaches us," says Sistahs president Jody Okafor '98. "She's the person we go to who says, 'Oh, you want to do this? I know just the person for you to talk to.' " Okafor says Browne and Sistahs got her interested in research and inspired her to consider a combined MD/PhD degree. Okafor's summer research on toxins in liver cells will be presented at the Society of Toxicology's annual conference.

Other Sistahs also have impressive science credentials, especially for undergraduates. Chelvanaya Gabriel '97 has written a paper to be published in the scholarly journal Polymers, and she was one of only fifteen U.S. undergraduates chosen for the prestigious UNCF-Merck Science Initiative for promising African American scientists. During an internship at the University of San Francisco Medical School, Olivia Velez '98 created a computer program about which she's writing for a scholarly publication. Katia Evans '99 received a scholarship from the American Chemical Society for her scientific promise, and plans to become a medical doctor specializing in pathology.

Sistahs gave Tiffaney Burford '97 "a chance to bond with other women in science. I see other women of color and realize that being a scientist is not just for nonminorities." She hopes to be a research chemist, doctor, and science teacher, and says, "Seeing so many women in Sistahs going after their dreams motivates me to go after mine."

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Photo credits:

Jim Gipe
Paul Schnaittacher
Fred LeBlanc
Michael Zide

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