Growing up in a small town, most of my fellow students focused on sports, because it offered they the highest opportunity for success. Nearly everyone expected that I would also focus on sports – I’m an African American male and both my older sisters were great athletes. Unfortunately, I did not inherit my family’s athleticism and recognized that I would have to take a different path. I quickly traded in the sports field for a lab to pursue my interest in science and research.
I loved exploring different aspects of STEM and wanted an immersive environment to showcase my work, so I started competing in science competitions, including the BioGENEius Challenge. Science competitions became my sport. Hearing my name over the school intercom, seeing my face in the local newspaper, being able to travel the country and present my work, receiving awards and scholarships, applying to an Ivy League university (and getting in) based on research I did in high school, and ultimately shaking hands with President Obama solidified that I had found my “sport” and that I was a winner.
Attending the White House Science Fair was one of the greatest highlights of my life and it further inspired me to pursue STEM. Seeing all the projects, taking a picture with Bill Nye the Science Guy, and shaking hands with President Obama are memories I will never forget. However, my favorite moment was when President Obama pushed for us all to continue to show the world how STEM related work can change the direction of our country in more positive manner.
Being able to do all this because I was a “nerd” was the best part of it all. Science research and the BioGENEius Challenge allowed me to see the many opportunities available in the STEM industries, and I knew that with hard-work anything was possible. Further, it was great to hear that my work inspired other African American students from my high school to pursue STEM.
Although no longer in the world of science, I still feel motivated by President Obama’s words. My science research in high school helped me to tap into my interests in engineering in college, and I have since graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering.
After doing all this work and shaking hands with the president I knew I had to give back. Every year I collaborate with my hometown science fair in Warner Robins, GA by providing special awards and judging science competitions. I do this because I know there may be young scientists who may need a little more encouragement to see their true potential. I look forward to helping out the next generation of scientists and hope to inspire some to pursue the BioGENEius Challenge!