We honor the excellence contributed to our mission, vision, and goals by African Americans, this month during Black History Month and throughout the year. Black Americans help to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.
Black Americans created and sustained American leadership in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) since the founding of this nation, and the history books are still being rewritten. In 2021, we have our first Black Vice President Kamala Harris, and Jeanette Epps, NASA astronaut, set to make history as the first Black woman to fly to the International Space Station. Black Americans in science are inspiring the next generation which will encourage and elevate the U.S. Department of Energy’s mission.
Here are a few leaders who raised the bar with knowledge, perseverance, education, passion and more:
Dr. Lonnie Johnson: A former nuclear engineer for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a United States Air Force veteran, he also worked in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA where he had a hand in sending spacecraft to Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. He also has more than 100 patents and invented the top-selling water toy of all time – The Super Soaker.
Former Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary: The first woman and first African American to head the U.S. Department of Energy. She supported research in solar and energy efficiency technologies.
Kétévi Assamagan: A physicist at the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, he also started the African School of Physics, funded by the Brookhaven Lab. Additionally, he explores huge quantities of data from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Europe in search of new physics.
Dr. Novella Bridges: Named one of the "Most Distinguished Women" in chemistry and chemical engineering by the American Chemical Society and a recipient of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Fitzner-Eberhardt Award for outstanding contributions to science and engineering education; she also worked with the Department of Energy’s PNNL. She has extensive experience with leading research in radioisotope composites for cancer, reduction of diesel emissions in vehicles, production of hydrogen for fuel cells, and more.
James A. Harris: The first Black scientist to contribute to the search for new elements. A journalist for EBONY magazine described him as a “hip, scientific soul brother.” He was the head of the Heavy Isotopes Production Group in the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab's Nuclear Chemistry Division. He also worked with elementary school students in underrepresented communities to encourage their interest in science. Harris’ dedication earned him many awards, including recognition from The National Urban League and the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers.
Brooke Russell: The first Black woman to receive a doctorate in physics from Yale. She is currently studying neutrino oscillations in the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.