African American Women in Technology: Persevering Through Adversity

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In an age when we are launching new rocket designs into space, and sending information instantly over wireless channels, there is still a gender gap in the #STEM fields. The first computer programmer in the world was a woman named Ada Lovelace, and modern binary code was developed by a Navy engineer named Grace Hopper. Yet, there is still a whole community, spanning generations, of African American women who have moved us forward in STEM development and have received little recognition for their contributions. In this blog post we are going to celebrate the African American women who have used their intelligence and ingenuity to pursue their passion for science, technology, engineering, and math, despite adversity.

Katherine Johnson:
As recently portrayed in the movie Hidden Figures, Katherine Johnson was a genius mathematician whose calculations helped to get the first astronauts to the moon. When John Glenn learned that the calculations for his orbital flight in 1962 were being done by a computer, he refused to go into space until Katherine herself confirmed that they were correct. After 33 years working for NASA, Katherine retired in 1986, and 20 years later she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
Henrietta Lacks:
Though she was not a scientist or doctor, Henrietta Lacks is still one of the most influential people in medicine to this day. On January 29, 1951, Lacks went to Johns Hopkins Hospital to diagnose abnormal pain and bleeding in her abdomen. Physician Howard Jones quickly diagnosed her with cervical cancer. During her subsequent radiation treatments, doctors removed two cervical samples from Lacks without her knowledge. She died at Johns Hopkins on October 4, 1951, at the age of 31. Ms. Lacks’ blood cells were able to multiply at rates that had never been seen before, or since and her blood cells were kept without her knowledge for research and are still being used in labs across the country today. The line of cells that there made from her sample were named the HeLa line, ironically to honor Henrietta. Jonas Salk used the HeLa strain to develop the polio vaccine, and since then her cells have contributed to over 10,000 patents. Unfortunately she never knew about her contribution to science and her family was never compensated by the labs that used her blood without permission for their research. For more information about her life and the importance of her contribution to science, read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
Lilia Ann Abron:
The first African American woman to earn a PhD in Chemical Engineering in the United States at the University of Iowa, Lilia Ann Abron has made incredible achievements in her field since she began her career in 1972. Abron founded PEER Consultants in 1978, an environmental engineering consulting firm that provides solutions to the problems of contamination of the environment. In 1995, Abron founded Peer Africa with the mission of building energy-efficient homes in post-apartheid South Africa. Peer Africa’s Witsand iEEECO (Integrated Energy Environment Empowerment-cost Optimization) Sustainable Human Settlement won the American Academy of Engineers 2012 Superior Achievement Award. To learn more about Abron’s achievements and community projects visit: thehistorymakers.org.
Dr. Donna Auguste:
A businesswoman and entrepreneur who specialized in software development, Donna Auguste is the genius behind Freshwater Software. Her company, founded in 1996, was created to offer companies the ability to monitor and track their presence on the internet. After she sold the company in 2000 she went on to found the Leave a Little Room Foundation, LLC, a philanthropic organization that helps to provide housing, electricity, and vaccinations to poor communities around the world. Despite adversity from her male peers and instructors, Auguste received her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from UC Berkeley and went on to become the first African American woman in the PhD program at Carnegie Mellon University. For more information on Dr. Auguste visit her profile on the NCWIT website.
Dr. Alexa Canady:
Born in 1950, she was the first African American Woman in the United States to become a neurosurgeon. After almost dropping out of her undergraduate program, she gained the confidence to continue her work and went from being a zoology major to medicine. Though initially she was not taken seriously as a doctor, she quickly proved herself to her peers and was voted one of the top residents in her program. Dr. Canady was chief of neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan from 1987 until her retirement in June 2001. She also holds two honorary degrees, and received the Children’s Hospital of Michigan’s Teacher of the Year award in 1984, and was inducted into the Michigan Woman’s Hall of Fame in 1989.
Dr. Jeanette Epps:
Dr. Epps is an astronaut that was selected by NASA in 2009 after serving in the CIA for seven years. She has two doctorates, one for Philosophy (1994) and the other in Aerospace Engineering (2000) from the University of Maryland. The New York native was a NASA Fellow during graduate school and authored several journal and conference articles describing her research.
Evelyn Boyd Granville:
The second African American woman to receive a PhD in mathematics from an American university when she graduated from Yale in 1949, Dr. Granville was a pioneer in the field of computing. In 1952, Granville temporarily abandoned teaching to become a mathematician for the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C., her work centering on the analyzation and application of mathematics toward the development of missile fuses. After joining IBM in 1956, she created computer software for NASA’s Project Vanguard and Project Mercury space programs. After leaving her position at NASA, she went back to teaching for 30 years until she retired in 1997.

There are thousands more women who could be added to this list, and we hope that this post inspires you to continue to learn more about the women who brought us into the modern technology age. Despite adversity, aggression, and subversion, these women refused to abandon their dreams of an education and a career in STEM. Their passion led to advancements in the field that are still making a difference today. Feel free to add to this list in the comments and tell us more about the women in the field who have inspired you!

 

The first degree conferred by Coleman University (when it was first named the Automation Institute) was to a young woman for Data Processing in 1964, and we have continued our mission for equality in STEM fields ever since. If you have been thinking about starting your career in Software Development, Cybersecurity, or Game Development we have classes that start every ten weeks, so you can pick when you want to start on your degree path! Give us a call at (858) 499-0202 to learn more about our degree programs and career services opportunities.

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Celebrate African American History Month in San Diego

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Coleman University celebrates African American History Month

Coleman University celebrates African American History Month 2018

February is not only a time to celebrate love and friendship, but also a time to reflect on the important events in African American history that have shaped our country. Through their contributions to art, music, technology, science, engineering, and thousands of other fields, African American citizens have helped make the United States what it is today. Despite hardships and institutional inequality, those whose legacy is a part of the foundation for African American History Month, moved our country forward into the modern age through their passion to learn, create, and to achieve their dreams. To start off this month of celebration and history, we have compiled a list of fun activities and opportunities to learn more about African American history and culture. Join your community in celebrating this month-long event!

Macy’s Museum Month:

For the entire month of February, at participating Macy’s stores and online, you pick up a free special pass that gets you half-off admission to over 40 museums in the city! The Museum of Man in Balboa Park and the Veterans Museum are great places to learn more about African American culture and influence in US history.

Visit https://www.sandiegomuseumcouncil.org/museum-month for more information and to find out where to get your FREE pass!

San Diego Black Film Festival:

The Black Film Centre of San Diego, a local non-profit organization, is putting on its annual Black Film Festival showcasing films from African American actors, directors, screenwriters, and other members of the film community around the world.

Visit http://www.sdbff.com/ for information about this year’s movies and screening locations.

Now Showing—Black Panther:

Created by comic book legend Stan Lee, The Black Panther was introduced to Marvel readers in 1966 when the superhero appeared in Fantastic Four #52. Known as T’Challa, the protector and leader of a fictional African country named Wakanda, his superpowers come from his great intellect, intense physical training, and mastery of technology. Coming to the silver screen for the first time, The Black Panther will be released in theaters on February 16th 2018.

Visit the San Diego History Center (Free Admission):

From now through April 2018, the SDAAMFA will be exhibiting artifacts in collaboration with the San Diego History Center that highlight the art of African American artists who have a significant relationship to San Diego. Artists on display include Manuelita Brown, Ernest Eugene Barnes Jr. (deceased), Jean Cornwell Wheat, Albert Fennell (deceased), Kadir Nelson, Faith Ringgold, Charles Rucker (deceased), and Rossie S. Wade (deceased). The display is at the San Diego History Center located at:

Casa De Balboa,

Balboa Park 1649 El Prado,

Suite #3 San Diego, CA 92101

KUUMBAFEST at San Diego Repertory Theater (February 22-25):

“This experiential four-day, arts empowerment, Afrofuturism focus mixed-media edutainment extravaganza for all of San Diego will be held at the Lyceum Theatre from Thursday, February 22nd to Sunday, February 25th, 2018.  This event features The Challenge for Change through Afrofuturism, Parade of History, the Royal Court Awards Ceremony workshops, dance, film screenings, cultural food competitions, youth programs, African Market Place, and more.”

Tickets available at: http://securesite.sdrep.org/single/PSDetail.aspx?psn=12301

The Shank Theater Presents “A Raisin in the Sun”:

The Department of Theater and Dance at UC San Diego proudly presents a classic story written by Lorraine Hansberry who was an African-American playwright and writer and the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway. The story of A Raisin in the Sun follows Walter Younger and his family who live in Chicago, each feeling confined by their physical home space and the social roles they’ve been assigned. When an insurance payout after the death of the family’s patriarch offers an opportunity to improve their lives, individual priorities and how they affect others come into question. Tickets range from $8.00 for students to $15.00 for general admission and can be purchased through this link: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3052044

 

Coleman University is not only a technology-focused university; we are also a diversity-focused institution. Since 1963 it has been our mission to provide education and career resources to any student who has a passion to learn and a dream they want to achieve. By promoting diversity in the STEAM fields, we can help to bring more innovation and inclusion for the benefit of our national, and international, community. 

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Black History Month: Gerald Lawson

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JerrylawsonTV

In the mid-1970s, Lawson helped create the Fairchild Channel F, a home entertainment machine that was produced in 1976 by Fairchild Semiconductor, where he worked as director of engineering and marketing. (Only years earlier, Mike Markkula, co-founder of Apple Computers Inc., had headed marketing for the company.) Though basic by today’s standards, Lawson’s work allowed people to play a variety of games in their homes, and paved the way for systems such as the Atatri 2600, Nintendo, Xbox and Playstation.

One of the few black engineers in his industry, Lawson later said that colleagues were often surprised to find out that he was African American: “With some people, it’s become an issue. I’ve had people look at me with total shock. Particularly if they hear my voice, because they think that all black people have a voice that sounds a certain way, and they know it. And I sit there and go, ‘Oh yeah? Well, sorry, I don’t.'”

Lawson passed away on April 9, 2011.

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Black History Month: Valerie Thomas

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ValarieThomasTVFrom 1964 to 1995, Valerie Thomas worked in a variety of capacities for NASA where she developed real-time computer data systems, conducted large-scale experiments and managed various operations, projects and facilities. While managing a project for NASA’s image processing systems, Thomas’ team spearheaded the development of “Landsat,” the first satellite to send images from space.

In 1976, Thomas learned how concave mirrors can be set up to create the illusion of a 3-dimensional object. She believed this would be revolutionary if technology could be harnessed to transmit this illusion. With an eye to the future, Valerie Thomas began experimenting on an illusion transmitter in 1977. In 1980, she patented it. In operation, concave mirrors are set up on both ends of the transmission. The net effect of this is an optical illusion of a 3-dimensional image that looks real on the receiving end. This brilliant innovation placed Thomas among the most prominent black inventors of the 20th century.

NASA continues to use her technology and is exploring ways to use it in surgical tools and possibly television and video.

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Black History Month: Dr. Mark Dean

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dean As a child, Mark Dean excelled in math. In elementary school, he took advanced level math courses and, in high school, Dean even built his own computer, radio, and amplifier. Dean continued his interests and went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee, a masters degree in electrical engineering from Florida Atlantic University and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford. He is one of the most prominent black inventors in the field of computers.

Dr. Mark Dean started working at IBM in 1980 and was instrumental in the invention of the Personal Computer (PC). He holds three of IBM’s original nine PC patents and currently holds more than 20 total patents. The famous African-American inventor never thought the work he was doing would end up being so useful to the world, but he has helped IBM make instrumental changes in areas ranging from the research and application of systems technology circuits to operating environments. One of his most recent computer inventions occurred while leading the team that produced the 1-Gigahertz chip, which contains one million transistors and has nearly limitless potential.

Source: http://www.black-inventor.com/Dr-Mark-Dean.asp

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Diversity Book Club

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Join us as we discuss noteworthy books that embrace Cultural Diversity.  More

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Black History Month: Dr. Philip Emeagwali

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Emeagwali

Dr. Philip Emeagwali, who has been called the “Bill Gates of Africa,” was born in Nigeria in 1954. Like many African schoolchildren, he dropped out of school at age 14 because his father could not continue paying Emeagwali’s school fees. However, his father continued teaching him at home, and everyday Emeagwali performed mental exercises such as solving 100 math problems in one hour. His father taught him until Philip “knew more than he did.”

Growing up in a country torn by civil war, Emeagwali lived in a building crumbled by rocket shells. He believed his intellect was a way out of the line of fire. So he studied hard and eventually received a scholarship to Oregon State University when he was 17 where he obtained a BS in mathematics. He also earned three other degrees – a Ph.D. in Scientific computing from the University of Michigan and two Masters degrees from George Washington University.

The noted black inventor received acclaim based, at least in part, on his study of nature, specifically bees. Emeagwali saw an inherent efficiency in the way bees construct and work with honeycomb and determined computers that emulate this process could be the most efficient and powerful. In 1989, emulating the bees’ honeycomb construction, Emeagwali used 65,000 processors to invent the world’s fastest computer, which performs computations at 3.1 billion calculations per second.

Dr. Philip Emeagwali’s resume is loaded with many other such feats, including ways of making oil fields more productive – which has resulted in the United States saving hundreds of millions of dollars each year. As one of the most famous African-American inventors of the 20th century, Dr. Emeagwali also has won the Gordon Bell Prize – the Nobel Prize for computation. His computers are currently being used to forecast the weather and to predict the likelihood and effects of future global warming.

Source: http://www.black-inventor.com/Dr-Philip-Emeagwali.asp

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