By: Evette Champion
As a little girl, Jedidah Isler was fascinated by the night sky. She has taken that love and worked her way toward becoming an astrophysicist though the Astrophysics program at Yale University. Now, she studies blazars—super massive, hyper-active black holes that produce powerful jet streams. Blazars are considered to be the most efficient particle accelerators, as they can transfer energy throughout complete galaxies.
Isler was one of three students to be accepted into the Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program. This program is a program that works to improve the diversity within the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics field of study. According to studies, these areas do not have many minorities with PhD degrees. So, with this program in place, it helps minorities with master’s degrees step up to obtain a PhD.
Although Yale employed the program in an effort to diversify its student body, Isler said she didn’t always feel welcome at the school. She shared that during her first year attending the university, she and a group of students went to an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet.
“So there are plates everywhere,” she recalls. Everyone seemed full and content. “And all of a sudden, this kid in my class hands me a pile of his dirty plates” — the student is a white male — “he just kind of hands them to me and says, ‘Here, now go and do what you’re really here to do.’”
Isler shared that she felt devastated, not only because it actually happened, but it limited how she could react. “If I get really mad, then I’m the angry black woman. But if I give too much concession, then I’m sort of too conciliatory, and it was just weird. It let me know that this is not a safe space for me. … It took me years to get past that.”
And past it she did, as she is now an Astrophysicist who is doing speaking engagements, consulting, and is deeply involved with promoting STEM engagement.
Do you think Isler will be a motivational force in getting other young Black girls interested in fields of study such as science, technology and math?