This year, the ICB blog and BIMS, Black in Marine Science, will be collaborating to highlight scientists from the BIMS organization. We hope this collaboration will further foster connecting a phenomenal network of colleagues in marine bio and inform our readers about BIMS research as well as their continued work to not only create a network but also a safe space for their members.
For Women’s History Month in particular, we want to highlight women making history and are thrilled to host Dr.Jeanette Davis (@DrOcean24) as our first BIMS scientist. Our interview with her is below.
Tell us a bit about your path to your position in the sciences.
I grew up loving sciences but never considered being a research scientist. By the time I attended college, I thought I would major in Chemistry and become a medical doctor. However, I attended a Historically Black College, Hampton University for my BS and was exposed to marine science and fell in love with it. I did internships each summer and decided to combine both research and medicine for graduate school and received a PhD at the University of Maryland and focused on marine drug discovery and ultimately helped discover a marine bacterium that produced an anticancer compound. I now use similar techniques that I’ve applied to invasive species and fisheries management in the federal government.
What were some of the parts of your journey you have enjoyed the most?
I’ve enjoyed the travel and connecting people with science. I traveled to over ten countries speaking about science or coordinating science. It’s allowed me to meet lots of great people, friends, and colleagues.
In reading about your work, it’s clear you have a variety of roles. In your website profile diversity advocate is noted as one of those. Can you tell us a bit about what you feel an effective diversity advocate does in academia?
An effective diversity advocate is first open to new possibilities and accepts that in order to create change, you actually have to be willing to do something different. Most often people approach diversity work with status quo which by default keep things that same. An effective advocate is open to change and willing to advocate for it.
As a marine biologist, what would you like future Marine Microbiologist /scientists in general to know and encourage them to aim for?
I want future marine microbiologist/scientists to know that they get to pursue this field simply because they want to. I want them to know that they are not limited by other’s people perceptions or views but get to show up as their authentic selves and contribute to science. I would also add to build great relationships, and find great mentors
Did you have mentors who helped guide you and offer you inspiration? (feel free to name them here and give an instance or instances) and how did your abundance or lack of mentors drive your career?
I was fortunate to have great mentors who helped me navigate the field of marine science. Having mentors allowed me to do internships every year as an undergraduate student and I eventually interned in the lab where I received my PhD. I’m still connected to my past mentors. My very first mentor as an undergraduate at Hampton University is now an amazing colleague and we now write grants together which is really excited.
With your own work in mentoring future scientists, what would you say are some of the main obstacles they may face in their career and how would you recommend they begin to address those?
One of the main obstacles for scientist is learning to exist and do well in a “burnout culture” that constantly wants you to work long exhaustive hours to produce scientific results and publications. This often leads to physical, mental or emotional exhaustion and an unhealthy lifestyle. I often encourage future scientists to allow for time to simply rest and enjoy life. Yes, go to the lab and do great work but also go to museums and find time for family and friends, and the things you enjoy. You’re measure of success is not limited to scientific results and publications and you actually can produce more when you’re well rested. I let them know that they don’t have to have it all figured out now and that there is actually joy in being present and learning as you go.
What impassioned you about sci comm for children in particular ?
I grew up loving science but would never simply utter the words, “I want to be a scientist”. I think this is true for many young people because they do not see representation of people who look like them in science and/or they are not taught to connect their inquisitive nature and desire to explore with science. I wanted to fill that void and connect young readers with science through everyday experience or activities in a diverse and inclusive way. I wanted literature that would reflect children’s curiosity and allow them to “see themselves” as scientist.
What upcoming topics are you excited about authoring more books about?
My first book titled: Science is Everywhere, Science is for Everyone outlines 10 different sciences in a fun and inclusive way. My second book titled: Jada’s Journey Under the Sea exclusively focuses on oceanography which was introduced in the first book. My goal is to continue to develop books based on those initial sciences to help young readers to connect with science and hopefully get excited about the possibilities as a scientist.
Connect with Jeanette via Twitter @DrOcean24
and buy her books via :