12 Black Scientists You Should Know Who Are Making an Impact Today

Aprille Ericsson

Aerospace Engineer, 

Aprille Ericsson was the first female to receive a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Howard University. She was the first African-American female to receive a Ph.D. in engineering at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She was born and raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, and earned her bachelor’s in aeronautical/astronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Lisa Stevens

Giant Panda Curator, National Zoo

Lisa Stevens became a familiar face, manning the giant panda program in 2005 when panda cub Tai Shan was born at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Before joining the zoo’s staff, she held positions as a field research assistant, in pet and aquarium retail, veterinary clinic operations and insect zoo husbandry and interpretation. She has a bachelor’s degree in zoology and pre-veterinary medicine from Michigan State University and attended the AZA School for Professional Management Development for Zoo and Aquarium Personnel.


James West

Acoustician and Inventor

James West was born in 1931 in Prince Edward County, Virginia, and studied physics at Temple University. After graduating, West worked in tech, specializing in microphones, and went on to author 200 patents. In 1962, with Gerhard Sessler, West developed the foil electret microphone. West was a research professor at Johns Hopkins University in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. West also founded the Association of Black Laboratory Employees.