Dr. Chad Jackson Speech at the 2016 STEM Symposium: Eager Juniors Encouraged to Reach Out To Senior Scientists

Amielle Moreno

An ex-Uber driver walks into a party at the Turkish embassy… 

   Immediately feeling out of place, this high-power happy-hour soiree is foreign in every connotation of the word. The ex-Uber driver shakes off the perspiration of self doubt and approached the Turkish ambassador. 

   In this true story, Dr. Chad R. Jackson is following his own advice to undergraduate minority scientists; treat yourself as a business and invest in yourself. This year’s STEM symposium kicked off with Alumnus Chad Jackson advising the next generation of minority students on this and other lessons he’s learned throughout his scientific career. He spoke of his experience starting as a cocky incoming grad student, to failing his first graduate biochem test, a monetarily challenged post-doc, to an advisor in the office of Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State. But what does this mean for you?

 Alumni, Chad Jackson just pointed a room full of up and coming minority scientists to your inboxes. He told them to be persistent, become comfortable and resistant to failure and to seek out help from senior scientists. This rousing yet casual speech definitely had attendees googling alumni to ask for advice and they’re not going to settle for landing in your trash can.  

   A climate of undeniable melatonin-based oppression has brought the issue of minority rights to dinner tables as well as the forefront of American politics. This elicits a broad range of responses from the American public including a sense of helplessness. Facing a systemic problem, sympathetic individuals are feeling all the responsibility of change yet none of the direction on how to discuss and address issues foreign to their own experiences.  

   Dr. Jackson’s speech provided biological science alumni an avenue to effect meaningful change in the world. While never addressed directly, the room of bushy tailed minority students at the STEM symposium narrowed their bright eyes on you. All alumni have to do is bridge the gap. 

   Dr. Chad Jackson praised a student who has e-mailed him for the past six months. “I should contact that young gentleman” he offhandedly remarked. It was a sad irony that a senior minority scientist, advising students to reach out for help, casually mentions ignoring a student not unlike those being addressed. This provided an example of how we can all improve by treating ourselves likebusinesses interested in assisting young scientists with the courage to reach out. 

   Personable and humble during his speech, Jackson shared a story about his time earning extra cash as an Uber driver during his post-doc. It was persistence and resistance to failure that provided Jackson the confidence to succeed, placing him in a position advocating for science in the State Department. 

  When Jackson approached the Turkish ambassador, this ex-Uber driver congratulated the ambassador on the recent investment in Turkish/American businesses, but asked “if he was considering cities like Detroit, Atlanta, St. Louis? Are you reaching out to American minorities to provide them opportunities?” Jackson hopes that his work inside the State Department will not only further american scientists but also encourage diverse perspectives through minority representation in the sciences. Now so should you. 

If you are interested in mentoring or just answering some questions from a young scientists who is not afraid to ask for help, please contact William Canon with Alumni Relations on the “Mentors on Call” program. His e-mail is wcanon@emory.edu