Auburn Engineering faculty member named among America’s most inspiring Black scientists

By Chris Anthony

Published: Jan 21, 2021 3:25:00 PM

Jakita Thomas Jakita Thomas

Auburn Engineering faculty member Jakita Thomas was recently included in Cell Mentor’s list of 1,000 inspiring Black scientists in America.

The list was compiled by the Community of Scholars, a group of Persons Excluded because of their Ethnicity or Race (PEER) composed of postdoctoral fellows, early-stage investigators, instructors and consultants.

“I am incredibly humbled to be included among this incredible list of brilliant Black scientists who are doing work on the cutting edge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Thomas said. “Black scientists have been involved in most of the scientific breakthroughs and innovations that have occurred throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, from GPS to the development of the first gaming console with interchangeable cartridges to computer-generated imagery. However, their contributions and leadership have often not been a part of the narrative of innovation and scientific advancement. It’s exciting and encouraging to know that, going forward, Black scientists can be recognized and acknowledged for the role they have played and will continue to play in leading innovation here in America and having impact around the world.” 

Thomas is the Philpott-WestPoint Stevens Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering and director of the CUltuRally & SOcially Relevant (CURSOR) Computing Lab. Her research interests include exploring the development of computational algorithmic thinking, promoting access to health care information and services for under-served populations, improving reasoning using expert cases, scientific reasoning, complex cognitive skills learning and computer-supported collaborative learning.

A noted researcher and leader in promoting equity and inclusion in computer science, Thomas has been honored for her research in this area and helped launch the inaugural Black Women in Computing Conference, which has since morphed into a computer science education and workforce development organization called blackcomputeHER.

“I’m elated but not surprised that Dr. Thomas is being recognized on a national level,” said Hari Narayanan, chair of computer science and software engineering. “Since coming to Auburn, she has been an inspiring role model to our students, and she has done yeoman’s work in making computer science and software engineering more equitable and inclusive.”

Thomas joined the Auburn Engineering faculty in 2016 after a six-year stint on the faculty at Spelman College. She began her career as a researcher at IBM Research – Almaden. Thomas is also the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Media Contact: Chris Anthony, chris.anthony@auburn.edu, 334.844.3447

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