Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Scientists Try to Lure Young Blacks to Field

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Scientists Try to Lure Young Blacks to Field

Article excerpt

MYRA McKENZIE perused the information at several booths of the St. Louis Science Center, and one could imagine the cogs in her head whirling around as she asked questions of the scientists there.

Myra, 16, fired her questions to the scientists in rapid succession, like bullets from a machine gun:

Is this a good career for blacks?

What are the best courses to take if you consider science as a career?

What was your major in college?

Which areas of science are the best to pursue for a career in the field?

Myra, who braved the freezing temperatures with her mother, Doris, to attend the minority career fair at the Science Center over the weekend, said she had never given thought to science as a profession.

"I've never met any black scientists, and I didn't think about it as something I could do as a job and get paid for," she said, even though she said she's always enjoyed science ever since watching "Mr. Wizard's World" on TV as a young child.

"I never knew what to do to become one," she said.

That's not surprising, says Albert Edney, president of the Association of Black Scientists of Metropolitan St. Louis.

"The number of blacks in the field of chemistry is extremely small," he said. "Less than 1 percent of the Ph.D.s in chemistry are black, for example."

The paucity of blacks in chemistry is more the rule than the exception. Blacks make up less than 3 percent of the scientific work force and only 1 percent of the science faculties at four-year colleges and universities, according to a recent report in the journal Science.

In contrast, blacks make up about 10 percent of the nation's work force, and 12 percent of the overall population.

"There are a number of reasons for the lack of black participation in this area," Edney said. Part of it, he said, is a lack of black role models.

That's why the Association of Black Scientists agreed to involve itself in the career fair, he said, to give students a chance to see blacks who work in science and to provide some role models for them.

Part of the problem is a notion - one bought into by many - that blacks are inferior to whites in science. That idea pervades not only the scientific community but some of the public as well. …

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