Monday, April 23, 2012

BFS: Black Female Scientist of the Day - Dara Norman

Yesterday I sat down to watch a documentary entitled "Race and Intelligence: "Race and Intelligence: Science's Last Taboo, a  UKChannel4 Production hosted by a black man on a quest to determine whether the claims made by scientific racists are true: that some races of people are inherently brighter than others and nothing can be done about this intrinsic difference which is entrenched deeply in our genetic inheritance. Garbage, in my opinion of course. Though intelligence may easily be inborn, the way in which someone is raised and what ideas are instilled in them from birth has plenty to do with the outcome of their lives including the intellectual progress they make along the way. Another thing...Confucius. Far-east Asian individuals who are known for their incredible academic success are hard-working and much of this is owed to what they are told during their upbringing.

As a black race, we need more of that. Luckily, I grew up in a family that encouraged and rewarded academic success. Not many of us have that and being away from that family environment may derail some people. I find myself losing heart at times because our department does not feature black women in positions of authority. If there was one, just one black female lecturer, it would make a world of difference and we may even begin to see a greater enrollment of black women in the physics department at the Honours, Masters and PhD levels. Instead, you are encroached by mainly white males who favour, prefer to communicate with and pay attention to their white male males and sometimes even females. But a black female bearing the greatest level of difference to them is more or less an other that they fail to relate to thus making communication uncomfortable and awkward. Yet it does not have to be that way. All they have to do is recognize a common humanity between us. Some of them do, don't get me wrong but there are those that view you as a complete "other" and keep their distance at all costs. It's fear indeed. Fear = ignorance.

In lieu of all of this, I feel it necessary to revel in the Black Female Scientists, particularly those that are involved in Astronomy, Physics and Space Engineering and Science. Today, I look at Dara Norman who three years ago was cordially invited to a Star Party at the White House (yessir!). She graduated with a PhD at the University of Washington in 1999, has published several papers, specialising in gravitational lensing, large scale structure and quasars and now works at the Cerro Tololo Observatory. Here she is, hair dreaded and all:

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