JOHNSON CITY (Nov. 30, 2020) – East Tennessee State University biologist Dr. Cerrone Foster was recently listed among “100 more inspiring Black scientists in America” by the science blog CrossTalk.
CrossTalk is the official blog of Cell Press, which publishes biomedical and physical science research and reviews. The blog “is fueled by a hunger for all things related to science, research, and publishing and is a home for scientists and science enthusiasts,” according to the CrossTalk website (https://crosstalk.cell.com/about).
Foster, an assistant professor in the ETSU Department of Biological Sciences, says it means a lot to her to be recognized among fellow scientists in this listing as it allows her an additional outlet to serve as an example and role model for aspiring young scientists. Although she knew that there were many Black scientists who went before her, Foster said she did not see as many Black scientists represented in academia as she pursued her education as today’s students see. And, she hopes that the efforts she and others are making in increasing diversity in academia, and particularly in the sciences, will pave the way for future young scholars who may not yet see their potential as scientists.
Foster says she has a niece and nephew who are closely following her career, and it is her hope that they will be able to see themselves as scientists.
“If we don’t have examples around us, how are we to be able to see and know that we fit in those spaces?” asks Foster, who was the first in her family to go to college and, thus far, is the only person in her family to earn a Ph.D. – a distinction that will be short-lived as others in her family are now pursuing advanced degrees. “Even though there were no visible representations in my neighborhood where I grew up, I had very good teachers who exposed me to things and made sure I was able to see myself in science and math.”
Foster says she has a diverse group of students working in her research lab, and it is important for her to serve as a role model to them as an African American female scientist.
“In mentoring my students, I talk with them about overcoming the disparities that still exist in academic environments and work environments,” she said. “I experienced things when I was their age, and here we are 20 years later and some of those things are still happening. People 20 years before me definitely had to experience some hardships, and they paved the way for me to be here. And so I am hopeful that in another 20 years, with this next generation that I am now mentoring, things will be very different – that they will move forward to make it better for other students, regardless of their ethnic background, religion, or anything.
“My focus in teaching as well as mentoring is that we all play a role in creating an inclusive environment. We all play a role in creating an environment for everyone to grow.”
Foster’s current research, funded by a grant from the American Heart Association, examines the mechanisms of estrogen loss and its effects on the heart after menopause. She holds a B.S. from The College of New Jersey and earned her Ph.D. at ETSU in 2007 before joining the university faculty in 2011.
To view the CrossTalk listing, visit Crosstalk article: https://crosstalk.cell.com/blog/100-more-inspiring-black-scientists-in-america.