Black history doesn’t end with Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month coming to a close, we are spotlighting influential Black cell biologists from the past and present with the hopes of inspiring the Black cell biologists of the future. 

Here is a list of Black cell biologists who have (and are currently!) making a difference in their fields and beyond. Special thanks to our invited panelists for sharing with the Life Science Cafe the Black cell biologists that have influenced them. 

This list is by no means exhaustive, but we hope that our readers take the time to search within their own discipline and surroundings to find brilliant people and stories that have been silenced, then take some time to celebrate these individuals, not just in the month of February, but throughout the year.

  • Ernest Everett Just – Howard University –  1883-1941. Multifaceted biologist that advocated for studying cells under normal conditions, as well as studying other aspects of cytology, marine biology, and parthenogenesis.
  • Roger Arliner Young 1899 – 1964. First African American woman to receive a doctorate in Zoology. As a Black woman in academia she was faced with nearly insurmountable obstacles by both the academic institutions and the greater society. Despite these challenges she conducted works that advanced our understanding of cellular osmosis in addition to other scientific contributions to the field of marine biology.
  • George Langford – b. 1944 – Syracuse University.  Former Dean of UMass Amherst (2005-2008). Studies cellular and molecular biology of the actin cytoskeleton in our nerve cells and how disease can effect these systems.
  • Treena Livingston Arinzeh – Columbia University.  Known for her pioneering work in adult stem cell therapy and her outreach to minority students, inviting 40-50 high school students to come into her lab during the summer.
  • Samantha Lewis – UC Berkeley. Leads a highly decorated lab studying the cellular mechanisms of mitochondrial DNA integrity and inheritance.
  • Tessa Burch-Smith – Principle Investigator of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. Her and her team are working to understand how plant cells share information between themselves and how viruses interact with these systems to cause disease.