10 Award-Winning Black Scientists You Should Know About
It’s Black History Month in the UK, and here at Hello Bio we are committed to supporting diversity, inclusivity and fairness by giving voices to all scientists through our wide-reaching blog and interview features.
Today we’re using our platform to highlight and celebrate the work of ten incredible black scientists who are not only changing the world through their research, but who are also promoting diversity as role models for young black scientists across the world.
From vaccine developers to sickle cell experts, from the first black female neurosurgeon to a pioneer in HIV and AIDS research, these ten inspiring scientists have all won awards for their outstanding contributions to science.
1. Kizzmekia Corbett
Award: Benjamin Franklin NextGen Award (2021)
American viral immunologist Kizzmekia "Kizzy" Corbett helped to develop the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 in 2020. She has been celebrated around the world for her work during the pandemic, and now spends a great deal of time participating in outreach work to combat vaccine hesitancy, particularly among communities of colour. Her home county in North Carolina even named 12th January 2021 as "Dr. Kizzy Corbett Day" in recognition of her work.
2. Emery N. Brown
Award: Swartz Prize for Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience (2020)
Emery N. Brown is an American neuroscientist, a statistician and an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, USA. In 2020, the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) awarded him the Swartz Prize for Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience in recognition of his “unusually broad knowledge of neuroscience” as well as his “seminal scientific contributions to neural signal processing”. Professor Robert E Kass of Carnegie Mellon University described Emery Brown as the "world's expert on statistical analysis of neuronal data" with his work on anesthesia being "truly transformative" for the field. In 2018, he was named one of GK50 Boston’s 50 most influential people of colour in life science and health care.
3. Alexa Canady
Award: American Medical Women’s Association President’s Award (1993)
Alexa Canady is a retired doctor from Michigan, USA, and was the first black woman to become a neurosurgeon. She held the title of Chief of Neurosurgery at the Children's Hospital in Michigan from 1987 until her retirement in 2001, receiving numerous awards and accolades throughout her career including the American Medical Women's Association President's Award in 1993. Even in her retirement she continues to work as an advocate for neuroscience and for diversity in STEM.
4. Raven Baxter
Award: SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence (2021)
Raven Baxter is a molecular biologist and a science communicator who has been recognized for her work in STEM education. Known online as ‘Raven the Science Maven’, her fun YouTube videos (which include some brilliant rap parodies) have helped to educate children and adults alike about viruses, antibodies and vaccines. She is also the founder of Black in Science Communication, an initiative created to help amplify voices within the Black community.
5. Dr James Hildreth
Award: Frederick C. Greenwood Award (2012)
Dr James Hildreth is recognized as one of America’s leading experts on infectious diseases. He has won numerous awards throughout his career which have celebrated his strengths in leadership, mentoring and his commitment to diversity in STEM. He is particularly known for his work on HIV and AIDS, with a focus on helping developing countries to lower their HIV infection rates. In 2012, he won the Frederick C. Greenwood Award for service directly affecting disadvantaged ethnic communities.
6. André Fenton
Award: Caribbean American Heritage Award for Excellence in Science and Technology (2019)
André Fenton is a Canadian Guyananese neuroscientist and a Professor of Neural Science at New York University. His research has focused on how the brain stores and experiences memories, and in 2020 he was named by Cell Press as one of the Top 100 Black scientists in America. He has also been responsible for bringing science's biggest questions to much broader audiences through his role as co-host of TV show Wonders, which explores the frontiers of science.
7. Julie Makani
Award: Royal Society Pfizer Award (2011)
Julie Makani is a Tanzanian medical researcher who has been highly celebrated for her work with sickle cell disease. She is a co-founder of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania and has dedicated two decades of her life to the development and improvement of treatments for the disease. In addition to winning the Royal Society Pfizer Award in 2011, she was also named one of the BBC’s 100 Women of 2019, which recognises her work in influencing health policy in Africa to improve access to testing and medicines for the entire population.
8. Professor George Warimwe
Award: Royal Society Africa Prize (2021)
Professor George Warimwe is a Principal Investigator at the KEMRI Wellcome Trust in Kilifi, Kenya, and is recognised for his research into viral infections transmitted between humans and animals. His work focussing on the development of a vaccine for their control won him the prestigious Royal Society Africa Prize this year, an award which celebrates researchers and science communicators who “play a critical role in expanding our understanding of the world around us”. Some of his work on COVID-19 serology in Kenya has helped inform decisions on the nation's pandemic response.
9. Professor Novel Chegou
Award: SAMRC Merit Silver Award (2019)
Novel Chegou is a Professor in Molecular Biology and Human Genetics at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. In 2019 he was awarded the Silver Merit Award from the South African Medical Research Council for his work in immunology, specifically on Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. He has been praised for his development of simple field-friendly diagnostics tools which allow for a faster diagnosis of tuberculosis in settings where resources are limited.
10. Dr Michael Johnson
Award: American Society of Microbiologists William A Hinton Award (2021)
Dr Michael Johnson of the UNC School of Medicine in North Carolina, USA, is a microbiologist who this year was named by Cell Mentor as one of the 1,000 Most Inspiring Black Scientists in America. His research focuses on how bacteria interact with metals during infections, but he has been particularly recognised for his outreach work, specifically the founding of a National Summer Undergraduate Research Programme which offers research opportunities to Black, Indigenous, People of Colour and Latinx students of microbiology and immunology. For the development of this programme Dr Johnson was awarded the William A. Hinton Award for Advancement of a Diverse Community of Microbiologists.
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