By: DeVante Webb
One woman’s destiny to be a scientist further led her to make history in the United Sates and shaped her plans for other aspiring African American scientists in the country.
Dr. Edith Davis is but a small microcosm in what is identified as a minuscule number of African American women in science. She was actually the first African American female Geophysicist in the United States. Davis comes from a line of African American scientists. Her mother was a scientific educator and her grandfather was a Botanist. Naturally, Davis would follow the same footsteps.
“It was just a natural thing for me,” Davis said. “I loved science.”
She credits her historical achievement to her collegiate education.
“I pursued a degree in geology from the University of Miami with a minor in mathematics, and then a heavy concentration in physics, chemistry, biology and marine science,” Davis said.
According to Davis, however, there is a discrepancy in the amount of black scientists in comparison to white scientists, especially for women. Davis said she wants to see more people of color in her field and that it may happen if black students have someone to emulate in the classroom.
“The more science teachers that look like them and that are standing before them, I think we’ll get more minorities into the sciences,” Davis said.
While at UM, Davis later had the opportunity to accept mentorship from Paleontologist Cesare Emiliani, Dr. Jared (Jerry) Stipp and Fred Nagle.
Davis was also unknowingly shaping her fruitful career in science. The only problem, according to Davis, was that minorities were well underrepresented in science at University of Miami.
“When I started the program at the University of Miami, there were three African Americans,” said Davis. “By the end of the semester and by time I graduated, there was only one, and that was me.”
Davis was the only one African American who stayed in the program until she matriculated out of school.
Surprisingly, Davis did not feel subservient because she was the only one.
“Science doesn’t look at color, doesn’t look at sex, it doesn’t look at anything but the mind,” and Davis’ mind is gifted.
While she was in the doctoral program at Baylor University, Davis had enrolled as a scientist that would eventually become a teacher. Her first course in the program spoke on the models of education in which would lead her to the curriculum she uses today, the spiral curriculum.
“I had a passion to teach science, as a geophysicist I was always teaching science for free.”
Davis’ innovative way of teaching using the micro spiral curriculum has proven how gifted she is. In fact, the very first elementary school she was brought into had a vast majority of kids (mainly Hispanic and African American) whom were failing in science.
After applying her curriculum to those children, their scores in science increased immensely. The year after her arrival, African American students state science scores increased by 45% and Hispanics student’s scores 36%.
Davis has countless accomplishments, she’s the first African American female geophysicist in the United States, her teaching methodology has earned Baylor University $ 11.8 million, and she has even represented the White House roundtable for women.
As an adolescent she aspired to become a profound scientist, wife and mother. Now as a scientist, wife (wife for almost 30 years now divorce) and mother, Davis’ ultimate goal is to become a great teacher.
“Great teachers produce great people. Great teachers produce great thinkers,” Davis said, and by the looks of it she’s not far from being a great teacher.
Davis is currently an Assistant Professor Coordinator of Science Education here at Florida A&M University.