Celebrating Black scientists

This Black History Month, the departments of Chemistry, Biology, and Physics spread the word about underrepresented scientists throughout history. 

In honor of Black History Month this year, departments across Arts & Sciences have celebrated the lives and achievements of African Americans throughout history, including Black scientists. The chemistry department's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee sent out regular emails with profiles of Black chemists. The physics department's DEI Committee shared Black History Month profiles from the National Society of Black Physicists, as well as a series of posters featuring underrepresented physicists throughout history. The Biology Inclusion Committee celebrates historical diversity in science on its website, including a list devoted to African American heritage. Learn about just a few of the scientists recently featured by departments in Arts & Sciences.


Winifred Burks-Houck

Winifred Burks-Houck (1950-2004) was an environmental organic chemist and the first woman president of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE), where she served from 1993 until 2001. She was born in Anniston, Alabama on August 20, 1950 and is the great, great, great granddaughter of abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Burks-Houck received a Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry from Dillard University in New Orleans and a Master of Science degree in organic chemistry from Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1983, she joined the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, CA as an environmental chemist. She worked analyzing environmental hazards, minimizing potential threats to worker safety, and ensuring that the lab minimized environmental impacts during its operation.

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Ernest Everett Just

Ernest Everett Just (1883–1941) was a pioneering African American biologist, academic, and science writer. He studied marine biology, cytology and parthenogenesis. Just earned his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and his doctorate from the University of Chicago. While on the faculty at Howard University, he founded the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. 

Read more from the department of biology 



Carolyn Parker

Carolyn Parker is the first African-American woman known to gain a postgraduate degree in physics. Parker was a physicist working for the Dayton Project, a part of the Manhattan Project, from 1943 until 1947. She then became an assistant professor in physics at Fisk University. Before she could defend her PhD dissertation she died of leukemia which was believed to be radiation-induced from her work on polonium research and development.

See more from the Department of Physics