Influential Black women in STEM in the UK and US

This women's history month, we want to take the time to honor influential Black women in cancer research that are making and/or have made an impact. It's women like these who help shape a better tomorrow for us, by us.
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Sigourney Bonner | Black in Cancer CEO, PhD Student, Scientist, STEM Advocate

Picture of Sigourney Bonner

Sigourney, co-founder & CEO of Black in Cancer, is a cancer biologist with a passion for connecting and inspiring other Black researchers. This passion started as early as her undergraduate days, where she was the Vice President of Faculty Biological Sciences society. Within this role, she helped to recruit and connect with aspiring scientists. She was also a Biomedical Sciences School Representative, where she represented the student body and gave a voice to the department. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, she worked as a histology technician working on neurological disorders at Pfizer. After which, she worked as a Scientist at AstraZeneca working on oncology projects. Currently, she has fused these two research interests together through pursuing her PhD at the University of Cambridge, where she is studying the rare brain cancer - supratentorial ependymoma.


 Bernadine Idowu, PhD | Associate Professor,  Conference Founder,  Philanthropist, STEM Advocate
Dr Bernadine Idowu is an associate professor of Biomedical Science at the University of West London. She is an award winning researcher, speaker, and STEM advocate. She enjoys connecting other Black scientists to build stronger networks. In 2017, she founded the "Black Minority and Ethnic Early Career Researcher" (BME-ECR) annual conference. The goal of the conference is to network, mentor and empower Black researchers to gain insight on and making a career for themselves in academia. In 2023, she founded the Black in Biomedical Science undergraduate conference which aims to build the next generation of Black Biomedical researchers. Furthermore, she has founded a charity, "Youth Against Crime Not Crime Against You" (YACnCAY), where volunteers who are role models can empower young people not to fall victim to joining gangs.  She is also the Co-Chair of the Black in Biomedical Research Action Group.

Kudzai Nyamondo, PhD | Postdoctoral Research Fellow

 Dr Nyamondo found a passion for understanding how cancers develop   and reoccur in patients after her younger brother had a (benign) tumor  removed when he was a baby. She graduated with her PhD in 2023 from the University of Glasgow. Her research was focused on testing novel compounds to use in blood cancer, chronic myeloid leukaemia. Currently, Dr Nyamondo is a postdoctoral fellow at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, where she aims to improve our understanding blood cancers through researching their mutational landscape and clonal evolution of these cancers She does not see a lot of other Black women in STEM and she wants to change that and empower other women of color to pursue STEM in the future. 


Edith Mitchell, MD, FACP, FCPP (1948-2024) | Medical Oncologist, Disparities Advocate, Clinical Professor, Brigadier General USAF

Dr Edith Mitchell was a trailblazer in the field of Oncology. She attended the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. In 1973, while in school, she enlisted in the Air Force. In 2001, she became the first female physician to gain the title of Air Force rank of brigadier. She wore many hats: Vice President of cancer disparities at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (SKCC), medical oncologist, teacher, thesis committee member, and mentor to name a few. Her oncology research encompassed breast, colorectal and pancreatic cancer types. The research she did impacted many people's lives positively, especially those of underserved populations. Specifically, she had a passion for giving back to the African American community and the Veteran's communities by making understanding and combatting racial disparities the driver of her research. She also connected African Americans interested in STEM and tried to expose them to as many opportunities as possible. 


Charnita Zeigler- Johnson, PhD, MPH | Epidemiologist, Associate Professor, Associate Director of Community Outreach and Engagement

Dr Johnson is an epidemiologist in cancer research. She received her MPH & PhD in epidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh. Currently, she's an Associate Professor and Associate Director for the community outreach and engagement team at Fox Chase Cancer Center. Her research focuses on better defining risk factors and racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in cancer screening and outcomes.  She often speaks at community events about the risks of cancer. Some of her outreach activities include overseeing a mobile screening program, community training programs, and community education.  She also helps develop and implement community-based interventions. Her ultimate goal is to connect research to the community to help the community be better served by research institutes and health systems.


 

Melissa Davis, PhD | Disparities Researcher, Director of Health Equity, Inaugural Director

Dr Davis is an outstanding figure in genomics and cancer research. Importantly, a prominent part of her research interest involves tackling breast cancer disparities among Black women. She holds various esteemed positions including Director of the Institute of Translational Genomic Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine, Associate Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Associate Faculty Member at the New York Genome Center. Dr Davis's groundbreaking work sheds a light on disparities outcomes through understanding African ancestry impact tumor burden. Her research investigates genetic and environmental influences on tumor biology, emphasizing the importance of diverse ethnic representation in precision medicine applications. Notably, her team (SAMBAI) just won the cancer grand challenges 2024 round funding.

Dr Davis will be one of the Keynote speakers at the Black in Cancer Conference this summer.


Sources

1. https://www.girton.cam.ac.uk/news/bonner-black-in-cancer

5. https://giving.jefferson.edu/get-involved/events/gala/achievement-award-in-medicine/peterson.html#:~:text=of%20gastrointestinal%20malignancies.-,Dr.,Grant%20from%20the%20Susan%20G

6. https://www.foxchase.org/charnita-zeigler-johnson

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