Sistas In Science

***The Champ’s latest at Ebony profiles four Black women who happen to be close friends…and all happen to have PhDs in STEM fields. (VSB vets should recognize at least one of them)***

Four Black women. All friends. And, all granted PhDs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields before reaching 30.

What sounds the premise for an urban fairy tale has been the reality for Jessica Porter, 29, Marguerite Matthews, 29, Dahlia Haynes, 31, and Racquel Jemison, 27—a reality made even more unlikely when reading statistics about Black people and STEM PhDs.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Black people are 12% of the U.S. population and 11% of all students beyond high school, yet they received just 7% of all STEM bachelor’s degrees, 4% of master’s degrees, and 2% of PhDs. And, out of 5,048 PhDs awarded in the physical sciences, such as chemistry and physics, 89 went to Blacks—a number that gets even smaller when removing Black men.

Yet, Porter (a Boston native and current senior sensory scientist at Proctor and Gamble in Cincinnati) met Matthews (who matriculated at Spelman and is currently doing a post-doc at the University of Portland) in 2006 while both enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh’s neuroscience PhD program. In 2010, they met Jemison, a Morgan State grad and doctoral student at nearby Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) who will receive a PhD in chemistry this fall. A couple months later, Jemison introduced them to Haynes, a post-doctoral research associate at CMU who received her PhD in chemistry at Clemson University.

The ladies soon grew close, forming the nexus for a “crew” of grad students and young professionals who migrated to the Pittsburgh-area for work or school. recently had the opportunity to sit down with them and discuss Black women in science, the importance of early STEM education, and the value of having a strong network of friends.

EBONY: Cases such as the one with Kiera Wilmot reinforce the idea that, from a lack of administrative support to Black students not given the same allowances other students are to experiment, there may be substantial social and institutional barriers preventing Black women from entering and excelling in science-based fields. Do you agree with this assessment?

Dahlia Haynes: This question reads unclear. I am not aware of this case but what allowances are we as Black women not getting? I, for one, have received great institutional support to excel in science based fields. I do believe however that it is because of the (White) people I had around me who were heavily invested in diversity. Socially, unfortunately is that there remains very few of “my people” in the STEM fields. This starts from an early age however. Where I’m from in particular, the only successful careers that were popularly known were the “Huxtables” (medical doctor or lawyer). To overcome this, being scientists has to become socially more acceptable at younger ages.

Marguerite Matthews: I don’t think there are barriers preventing Black students from going into or excelling in the sciences, per se. But I do think there is a lack of support, encouragement, and proper education for many Black students – especially those coming from more disadvantaged economic backgrounds. Similar to Dahlia, I had teachers who pushed me into STEM opportunities, which inspired me to pursue science in higher education and as a career. Exposure to these opportunities, and feeling empowered to thrive in the sciences, has made a world of difference. Unfortunately in the case of Kiera Wilmot, the stereotype that Black kids are thought of as criminals first, not scientists, is being reinforced. This type of experience – being faced with criminal charges – may totally deter her from pursuing science in the future. And while this likely isn’t the case for all Black children, it highlights that society often does not value Black children, even those who are proven to be good students, as future innovators and intellectuals.

Jessica Porter: I do not think that there are barriers preventing Black women from entering or excelling in science based fields any more than there are barriers for White women. Science remains to be a male dominated field so the issues from my experience have had to do more with being a woman than being Black. In addition, as  a Black woman, we check two boxes, which tend to be very important for funding especially at a time when scientific funding is being cut. I don’t want to think that the reason I received funding was because I was Black, but being Black did help. In most science fields, the government or non-profit organizations pay for higher education through grant funding, thus eliminating the barrier and making a scientific education cheaper and easier to pursue.

Racquel Jemison: I think I’m more inclined to agree with Marge.  There isn’t enough support for our young Black students to pursue interests in the sciences.  It’s primarily those few heavily involved teachers or mentors that encourage early exposure to the sciences, and quite frankly, there aren’t enough of them.

Read more at EBONY

Ask A Very Smart Brotha: We Just Found Out He Has Newborn Twins, Should I Try To Work It Out?

Jazmine: I just found out that the person that I’ve been wanting to start a relationship with has NEWBORN TWINS! He claims that he didn’t even know and that the female lied and said she was pregnant by someone else. He wants to have a sit down and air it all out but my past relationships leave me hard to trust/believe him. Should I give him the opportunity to plead his case? He claims he loves me just as much as I love him but I’m guarding my heart with an iron fist. Suggestions???

DY: Your man’s name isn’t Tom Brady, is it? Anyway, it is possible that he was unaware of this situation until recently. In fact, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Still, you both need to take a big step back from this relationship—him because he needs to figure out how to feed two mouths, and you because nothing about “my new man has twin newborns by a different woman” is hot in the streets.

I mean, if the roles were reversed and you were knocked up with twins and didn’t know who the dad was, do you think he would stay?

Erica: I just got into a discussion about what marriage is suppose to mean and I want a guy’s take on it. I say: Love is not unconditional and that everyone has dealbreakers in which they will leave a relationship or marriage. Including weight gain. Others say: If you’re married, then the only dealbreaker should be don’t cheat and don’t abuse me.
What say you?

DY: I say the best relationships/marriages are when you find someone whose dealbreakers match yours.

Denise: At what age do men grow up ?

DY: The age we realize “continuing not to grow up” means “dammit, the pool of women available to me will continue to shrink until I grow up.” Some of us make that transition, and some don’t because their pool never shrinks and there’s no incentive to make the change.

Nicole: I am in school for my PhD., should settle for someone that does have the same education level that I have or do you think I should keep my options open. Last guy I was with worked in a grocery store and that didn’t work.

DY: Keep your options open, and date whoever makes you happy. Just because someone might not have been the ideal in your head doesn’t mean you’re “settling.” The only way you can settle is if you choose someone who doesn’t make you happy. Also, just because you don’t find someone else with a Ph.D doesn’t mean you have to date supermarket stockboys. There are in betweens, you know?

Read more at Madame Noire

My Friend, Dr. Gem

As both Panama and I have stated many, many times, VSB has easily the best fanbase of any blog on the internet. Obviously, we’re not particularly objective when saying that — “our fans are the best fans ever” is about as panderific as you can get — but trust me when I say that we’re both amazed by how consistently awesome you are all. We are definitely fans of our fans.

Today, though, is about one fan in particular. A person who’s been around since 2008, and has been one of our biggest supporters ever since. How big? Tom Hanks big. Lebron’s headband in 2016 big. My head big.

Big enough to be completely intoxicated and still volunteer to give an on-camera interview about us during our #threedeez book party

And, big enough to subject herself to a get-up that made her look like a DeBarge brother and five hours worth of my bipolar direction just to help me give the world a visual of what a “Diva Dude” looks and sounds like.

There are many other things I could say and many more stories I could tell about her. Some printable, and some, well, some a bit too ratchet for a person with a Ph.D to have floating around the internet. Since she may decide to run for president of La Raza or some shit some day (and since I don’t necessarily have the best handle on the line between appropriate and inappropriate), I won’t share any others.

Why am I bringing this all up today? Well, some time this afternoon, Gem of The Ocean, aka Gem Jones, aka my Ace Boon Goon, will officially go from being a Ph.D candidate to a person who actually has a freakin Ph.D, and I want to return the love she’s given us. I couldn’t be happier for her and prouder to call someone my friend.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Shaq Got a #doctorit And All I Got Was This T-Shirt

The Big Ph.D.

So why for come ain’t nobody not tell me that Shaquille O’Neal got a Ph.D. in some Ph.D. sh*t from Barry University?

By the way, that last sentence was brought to you by publicly funded education.

So the homey Cheekie sends me an email talking about Shaq getting his Ph.D. last weekend and I immediately hit her with the virtual Chris from Family Guy, “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?”

Let me tell you something. That made me smile. Big and wide. Kind of how I like my white women. With there being so much drama in the LBC, you rarely hear stories about athletes making vast educational achievements. Turns out, the Big Aristotle also has an MBA. Sure its from the University of Phoenix-Online, but hell, do YOU have an MBA…from anywhere? (If you do just shut up and sit there silently as to not destroy my point. Thanks. — Management)

I feel like its very to easy to read article after article about low graduation rates from college for athletes. Especially basketball playing (read ninja-like) athletes. But I’m fairly certain that if it wasn’t for Twitter, I wouldn’t know about Shaq getting a Ph.D. (from Barry University in Miami) in leadership and education with a concentration on human resource development. What does that mean? I don’t know. But I’ll bet the other folks with Ph.D.s in that know.

I feel like stories such as this one should be well reported everywhere. I remember some years ago when Vince Carter decided to possibly miss a playoff game to go to his graduation from UNC. People were in an uproar. How could he not be devoted to his teammates at such a pivotal time. Vince Carter was like, “dude, this is my life. You go to college to walk across the stage and graduate, and that’s what I’m going to do.” I couldn’t be mad at him or blame him. The NBA, is his job. Getting an education is a life goal that so many of us have and that achievement gets acknowledge by walking across the stage so that friends and family can witness what was such a lofty goal for so many of our ancestors.

I also remember some years ago when Myron Rolle, from Florida State, ended up becoming a Rhodes Scholar and decided to go to Oxford for a year and pasing up the NFL draft to get a Master’s degree first. His coaches, some players, and analysts thought he had lost his damn mind, but he was very focused on his education and getting to his ultimate goal of becoming a doctor. He plays in the NFL now. And is well on his way. Hell his Wikipedia page might be the most interesting athlete page ever.

I did a google search trying to find out how many professional athletes have graduate degrees (or hell degrees period) and couldn’t find anything. But if I wanted to know which school didn’t graduate the most athletes I’m sure that’s available (my guess is Kentucky). And this isn’t a race thing. Athletes, especially, professional athletes get credited as being dumb jocks a lot but the truth is that a lot of them (not all, obviously not all) do value getting an education. And finish those degrees. It’s just some rich white man was willing to pay them millions of dollars to hold a ball. I remember telling my father that if I had a chance to play professionally, I’d finish college first and my father looked at me like I was crazy. He said if somebody’s willing to pay you for that, school isn’t going anywhere. So the incentive to roll out is substantial.

But numbers of these guys go back and finish their degrees. Which is why hearing that Shaq has a Ph.D. is such a great story to me. I don’t even know him and I’m proud of him. He knows the value of an education and kept at it. You go Shaq.

I think I wrote all that to just say, “you go Shaq!”


So, happy Friday! Um…isn’t that great?

By the way, I do realize the inherent “low standardism” that I displayed by being excited that an athlete actually got a degree. Maybe that says a lot about me. Maybe that says a lot about how I view athletes. N.E.R.D. has a song called “Maybe”.

*takes ball and goes home*

The floor is yours.


Also, I feel like I should introduce for those who haven’t been, an interesting webseries that I’m sure all of you cubicle-n*ggas can understand and relate too: The Unwritten Rules. Peep the trailer then go check out the two episodes. It’s worth the watch.

link of the week: from jobless to topless

“its a recession”

jokingly used nowadays as a witty response to every question, this phrase can now be used as a justification for learning how to booty clap to the chorus of “say you will”.

“The tough job market is prompting a growing number of women across the country to dance in strip clubs, appear in adult movies or pose for magazines like Hustler.

Employers across the adult entertainment industry say they’re seeing an influx of applications from women who, like Brown, are attracted by the promise of flexible schedules and fast cash. Many have college degrees and held white-collar jobs until the economy soured.”

obviously, this is nothing new under the sun. humans have been willing to buy and sell sex since adam was rockin a bald fade. thing is, the sex industry has always been perceived as an option for the optionless, a skill less job for a hopeless woman.


well….its a recession. apparently, the “p” in “p-popping” now stands for phd.

people of vsb:

personally, how would you describe your view of people with sexually themed occupations? reluctant admiration? disdain? pity? aggressive indifference? does your judgment depend on situation and circumstance?

would you consider “selling” yourself if you felt you didnt have any other attractive options?

could you date someone who’s been in or who’s currently in “the life”?

don’t be scurred and sh*t. we’re all family here.

****admin note****

on april 24th, the champ is hosting a happy hour at ava bar & lounge in pittsburgh for all vsb-ers in the tri-state area. come if you want to be awed by the champ’s black leather and voiceofreason’s pillow twinset.

email us at, or join the facebook fan page and rsvp if you’re interested in attending. the champ can’t promise any drink specials right now, but he will personally buy liquor for anyone rocking vsb paraphernalia, like veteran vsb-er goodeness…


…seen here contemplating life, spoons, and greyhound stations.

also, has a twitter account.…as does panama….and the champ. if anyone can successfully convince either of them why they should even bother tweeting, theres a free vsb tee in it for you.

****end of admin note****

—the champ