Through the Window and into the Mirror: Narratives of African American STEM Professionals

A Career Conversation Series

Program Description

In 2020, the National Museum of African American History and Culture invited middle and high school students to join us as we explored careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Through the Window and into the Mirror is a video conversation series about the experiences of African American STEM professionals today. Peer into the ‘windows’ of the speakers’ lives, learn from their lived experiences as STEM professionals and find parts of your culture and lifestyle ‘mirrored’ in the speakers’ lessons of their youth and greatest challenges and accomplishments. Through the Window and into the Mirror aims to inform, inspire, and be a starting point for students as they take steps towards having careers in STEM. 

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Past Speakers

 Marguerite Matthews, PhD
National Institutes of Health
Watch Marguerite's interview

Dr. Marguerite Matthews works at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a federal funding organization that invests in learning more about illnesses that impact the brain and nervous system. Dr. Matthews supports programs that help increase the diversity of scientists studying neuroscience, from high school up through university faculty levels. She has a passion for working with youth interested in science, technology, engineering, and math and helping them prepare for college and beyond. She studied biochemistry at Spelman College for her bachelor’s degree and neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh for her doctorate. 

 Joseph T. Bonivel Jr., PhD
Department of Defense
Watch Joseph's interview

Dr. Joseph T. Bonivel Jr. is a Subject Matter Expert for the Department of Defense, where he leads projects related to technology incubation and maturation. Before working at the Department of Defense, he was a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation where he traveled across the country facilitating workshops that taught university scientists and engineers how to become entrepreneurs. Recently, Dr. Bonivel was recently awarded Technologist of the Year by the Southern New England Association of Technical Professionals and was profiled by Black Enterprise Magazine as one of its 100 Modern Men. He has also spent time teaching engineering and physics at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

 Justin Shaifer
Fascinate Inc. / Columbia University
Watch Justin's interview

A rising star in STEM education and advocacy, Justin Shaifer is a popular science communicator with a talent for understanding and inspiring Gen Z. He is the Founder of Fascinate Inc., an organization that partners with corporations such as Microsoft and Google to excite underrepresented students about STEM careers. He is a science education PhD student at Teachers College of Columbia University and host of the live science show, Escape Lab featured on Twitch. ​

Self-taught and fascinated by science, Justin earned scholarships from NASA and NOAA that covered 100% of his tuition and room and board at Hampton University. Justin graduated with a degree in marine and environmental science, earning the department’s highest GPA while also serving as student body president.

 Quincy Brown, PhD /
Watch Quincy's interview

Dr. Quincy Brown, is the Director for Engagement and Research at Before this she worked at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation. Her work focuses on education and professional development for students and adults in STEM and computer science.  She was also a computer science professor at Bowie State University and co-founded, a non-profit organization providing education and support to Black women and girls in computing and technology.

 Faith Dukes, PhD
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
Watch Faith's interview

Dr. Faith Dukes is the K-12 STEM Education Program Manager at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in California where she helps scientists communicate their research to the public and build programs that help young students start their STEM careers. Dr. Dukes has always loved talking about science and decided to study chemistry at Spelman College. While there, she volunteered and helped younger students learn about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). After graduating from Spelman College, she attended Tufts University where she earned her PhD in chemistry. Her research focused on cleaning water with chemicals that were able to break down waste with light. Before becoming the Program Manager, she's worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

 Raychelle Burks, PhD
American University
Watch Raychelle's interview

After a few years working in a crime lab, Dr. Raychelle Burks returned to university research. An analytical chemist, Dr. Burks doesn't make chemicals - she finds them, like a chemistry detective. She and her team focus on designing new and improved ways of detecting controlled substances like certain drugs, explosives, and chemical weapons, but also work on detection systems useful for plant and human health. She loves teaching students the basics of chemistry and the ins-and-outs of chemical detection. Outside of the university, Dr. Burks is a popular science communicator. She appeared on the Science Channel’s 'Outrageous Acts of Science' and will soon-be-seen on the Smithsonian Channel's 'The Curious Life and Death Of'. 

Kizzmekia S. Corbett, PhD
National Institutes of Health
Watch Kizzmekia's interview

Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett is a research fellow and the scientific lead for the Coronavirus Vaccines & Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Vaccine Research Center. She received a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences, with a secondary major in Sociology, from the University of Maryland – Baltimore County. She then enrolled at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she obtained her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology. Dr. Corbett has fifteen years of expertise studying dengue virus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus, and coronaviruses which she uses to aid in the preparation for pandemics. Since 2014, she has focused on developing novel coronavirus vaccines, including mRNA-1273, which is a leading candidate vaccine against the virus that causes COVID-19.

Following promising results in animal models and humans, mRNA-1273 is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials, where it is being extensively tested in humans for safety and efficacy. Dr. Corbett’s team has also developed universal coronavirus vaccine concepts, novel therapeutic antibodies, and a universal influenza vaccine which is being prepared for Phase 1 clinical trials in humans.