Generations

‘There is a lot of work to do’

Christopher W. Williams
By Christopher W. Williams
April 1, 2015

I am often told that I do not fit the stereotypical profile of a scientist. Is it because I am a tall, former collegiate swimmer and extremely extroverted? Or is it because I grew up in Baltimore City and posed for pictures at my Ph.D. graduation ceremony with dreadlocks under my cap? As you may have guessed, I am a young African-American male scientist. I am not the first, but I am still a rarity in the life sciences. My atypical look provides an opportunity to engage with others to deconstruct the stereotype and actively diversify the profile of scientists.

Christopher W. Williams

Although I am passionate about science, I realize that I could be the last scientist in my family. I accept that my future children may not be interested in following in my footsteps. However, I do not accept that a child, especially one who looks like me, may never have the opportunity to become a scientist and contribute to groundbreaking research, discovery and innovation.

My strategy to address this concern is to start the recruiting process early for the next generation of African-American scientists through effective science education and outreach initiatives. My recruiting tactic is simple: I show up. I consistently give my time and energy to disprove misconceptions about who scientists are, what they look like and how they can impact the world. The students do the rest of the work. They are challenged and encouraged with science lessons and, as a result, demonstrate improved reading, analytical, math and interpersonal communication skills.

My goal is not to turn anyone into a scientist but rather to improve scientific literacy and allow future scientists to reveal themselves. Ultimately, I want the students that I interact with to become more focused and confident individuals.

With that said, I must get going. There is a lot of work to do.

Christopher W. Williams
Christopher W. Williams

Christopher W. Williams is a postdoctoral fellow studying genetics at the National Institutes of Health. He grew up in Baltimore City, Md., where he attended public grade school. As a child, he was fascinated by living things. He took that passion for biology to Frostburg State University. He earned his Ph.D. from Georgetown University in 2012. Contact him for STEM-related educational and outreach opportunities.

Related articles

When science runs in the family
Rajendrani Mukhopadhyay
My scientific lineage
F. Peter Guengerich
Nature or nurture?
Mariana Figuera-Losada
The truth goes only so far
Leonardo Valdivieso–Torres
A majestic model
Mollie Rappe

Join the ASBMB Today mailing list

Sign up to get updates on articles, interviews and events.

Latest in Opinions

Opinions highlights or most popular articles

Part 1: ‘Aha moments’ essay contest honorable mentions
Contest

Part 1: ‘Aha moments’ essay contest honorable mentions

May 6, 2021

To celebrate our three journals going open access, we invited readers to share their moments of discovery in science. Here are two honorable mentions.

Share your aha moments!
Editor's Note

Share your aha moments!

May 4, 2021

How a brainstorming session produced two videos, an essay contest and gratitude.

Winners of the ‘aha moments’ essay contest
Contest

Winners of the ‘aha moments’ essay contest

May 4, 2021

To celebrate our three journals going open access, we invited readers to share their moments of discovery in science. Here are the first, second and third place winners.

Hidden talents
Editor's Note

Hidden talents

April 16, 2021

Witty drawings by ASBMB staff member Vic De Luz are a bonus feature of our April focus on science and art.

Picture this: The 2nd annual JBC Methods Madness tournament
Art

Picture this: The 2nd annual JBC Methods Madness tournament

April 15, 2021

In this version, instead of basketball teams we bring you competing scientific methods and a chance to sway the outcome with votes (and maybe some trash talk) on Twitter.

Lessons from plants: A changing environment
Books

Lessons from plants: A changing environment

April 7, 2021

Beronda Montgomery writes about plants adapt to environmental conditions in this excerpt from her new book.