Black STEM Heroes Who Shaped the World

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Black scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians have changed the world significantly throughout history. From space exploration and scientific discoveries, to tech innovations and more, there are many Black heroes in STEM whose work has shaped our lives.

These are just a few of the many incredible Black heroes in STEM who made revolutionary discoveries and inventions, and who paved the way for future generations to follow in their footsteps.

Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa, MD, MSc

Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa is a physician, professional spoken word poet, and psychiatry resident at University of Toronto. In 2020, Dr. Oriuwa became the first sole Black woman to serve as the valedictorian for the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, and the first woman in 14 years.

In addition to winning multiple awards and distinctions throughout her career, Dr. Oriuwa is also an amazing advocate for STEM inclusion. As a U of T student, Dr. Oriuwa was the co-founder of the Black Interprofessional Students Association and the ambassador of the Black Students Application Program. Thanks to Dr. Oriuwa’s work, 24 Black medical students were admitted to the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine for the class of 2024. (Watch Dr. Oriuwa’s valedictorian speech here.)

Elijah McCoy

Portrait of engineer, Elijah McCoy

Elijah McCoy was a Canadian engineer and inventor most famous for his innovations in industrial lubrication. After six years of working as a fireman for the Michigan Central Railroad, McCoy invented a revolutionary device known as the “oil-drip cup.” The device oiled steam engines so efficiently, it allowed trains to operate without interruption. Over the course of his life, McCoy registered over 50 patents, many involving the lubrication of steam engines. (Read more.)

[Photo Credit: Ypsilanti Historical Society Wikimedia Commons]

Stephanie Wilson

NASA Astronaut, Stephanie Wilson, posing in front of American flag

Stephanie Wilson, engineer and NASA astronaut, has logged more than 42 days in space and is a veteran of three spaceflights. After the trailblazing Mae Jemison, Wilson made history by becoming the second African American woman to go into space. More recently, Wilson was the CapCom (the astronaut on Earth who communicates with crew members in space) during the historic all-woman spacewalk from the International Space Station in 2019. (Read more.)

[Photo Credit: NASA Johnson]

Lisa Gelobter

The next time you send a funny GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) to a friend, you can thank Lisa Gelobter. The computer scientist developed the animation used to create GIFs, the moving images we often use to communicate online. Gelobter also played a critical role in developing several major internet technologies, including Shockwave and Hulu. (Read more.)

Jerry Lawson

Jerry Lawson’s bold vision laid the groundwork for video games as we know them today. The American engineer revolutionized the video gaming industry forever when he oversaw the invention of Fairchild Channel F, the first commercial video game console to use interchangeable game cartridges. Prior to the invention of Fairchild Channel F, users could only play video games that were hardwired into their operating system. With Fairchild Channel F, consoles could play an unlimited number of games, changing the landscape of gaming forever. (Read more.)

Dr. Maya Warren

Ice Cream Scientist, Dr. Maya Warren, in a lab

Dr. Maya Warren is an Ice Cream Scientist with a PhD in Food Science, and specializes in the microstructure, sensorial, and behavioral properties of frozen aerated desserts. As the creator of the popular series Ice Cream Sundays, Dr. Maya brings people of all ages together by teaching viewers how to make No-Churn ice cream at home. She also recently co-founded Ice Cream for Change, a platform advocating for social change and civic action. Adding to her already impressive resume, Dr. Maya is also part of the winning duo from Season 25 of The Amazing Race.

We had the honour of interviewing Dr. Maya for Spotlight with Scientists in School. Watch the interview on our YouTube channel!

Maryam Tsegaye

Seventeen-year-old Maryam Tsegaye made history in 2020 when she became the first Canadian to win the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a prestigious international science competition. In her contest entry, the Alberta student explained quantum tunneling in a clear and entertaining way in under three minutes. Competing against 5,600 applicants from 123 countries, Tsegaye won a grand prize totaling $500,000 CAD, including a scholarship and a new science lab for her school. Tsegaye has her sights set on a future in physics. We can’t wait to see what she does next.

Tune in to our next Spotlight with Scientists in School episode on February 11 @ 12:45 p.m. EST to watch our interview with Maryam Tsegaye! Follow us on Facebook to tune in for the premiere on International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

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