Jennifer Caldwell

Connecting Science With Communities 

Grand Rising All,

 

 

    Let’s get to know each other. Most people say scientist are stuffy, but whether the lab coat is on or off, I like creating enjoyable environments.  So imagine this conversation with your morning cup of coffee or favorite glass of wine… 

I am Jennifer Caldwell.

    I am a scientist + community organizer, fake vegan, event planner enthusiasts, and part time fashionista who enjoys “downtime” just as much as a moderate social calendar. 

 

    Old friends and newcomers should know, I am passionate about God, family, travel, cooking, dancing, and expanding avenues for STEM Education. More specifically my goal is to eradicate health disparities within the African Diaspora, by focusing on re-constructing our history through ancestral, cultural, and genomic research. Did I mention I love community organizing? Creating better health outcomes starts on a local level, so how can I help your community progress? 

   Growing up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas I learned early on the value of serving the community around me.  Our community is a lifeline for the city and serving in the community allowed me to gauge different influences of our health outcomes. Little did I know, all the activities and people that I met set me in the right direction to build relationships in the future.  At the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, in addition to having an awesome undergraduate experience, STEM education and

mentorship became vital tools for success. It was at UAPB that research, specifically research for Black communities, became my objective. During my Masters of Public Health program, I worked for the Arkansas Department of Health SISTERS United project. This project was a community based participatory project that encouraged Pan-Hellenic Sororities to take an active stance in educating women to reduce the infant mortality rate in Arkansas. The success of this project increased my belief that Black communities were interested in taking an active role in research. 

 

   From Arkansas to Washington D.C.,my path was defined at Howard University by combining community based projects with genomics research. The African Bloodlines project became a pilot project for increasing African American participation in genomic research. There is so much to unpack within this study, so many things that make us unique. Thanks for joining our team, as we use science to re-construct our history. 

 

    As scientist we spend a lot of time behind laboratory doors but science is a part of our daily lives. How can we bring more STEM and Health Education to you? How can the science community make better connections with the people we serve?

    It is my dream that communities all across the African Diaspora become healthier, happier, and committed to prosperity. Let’s work together to make this dream a reality. 

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                                                                                                                                                                            Sincerely,

                                                                                                                                                                                             The Connector

Speaking about the importance of African Americans participating in Genomic Research and finding your niche before graduate school, at my alma mater University of Arkansas Pine Bluff's Homecoming week STEM Academy meeting. 

Community

Organizer

  Growing up in rural Arkansas taught me the value of community and that bringing people together is the best method for creating a new vision. By including local residents in our research efforts, they are able to have authority over their own genetic material and feel a part of the bigger picture. 

 

   Community Engagement increases efficacy and creates more robust scientific outcomes. The outcome of partnering with community leaders and organizations increases participation of marginalized populations. More specifically, communities within the African Diaspora are able to repair trust in the health care system and eradicate continuous methods of institutionalized racism by not participating in genomic research. Our ultimate goal of community engagement is to increase the efficacy of precision medicine for all diverse populations. 

Investigator

   One of my favorite TV channels is Investigation Discovery. When I was younger I would binge watch forensic files not only to understand scientific investigation but I was intrigued with the personal stories in each episode. This show increased my awareness of investigating the total picture, even the minute histories. 

 

   Today, my investigation as a Population Geneticist and Biological Anthropologist would be incomplete without the histories, cultural influences, and present day environment circumstances that contribute to the diversity in our study populations. Interdisciplinary investigation helps our research be as comprehensive as possible. 

Educator

   My mother owned her own daycare for over 25 years, so education was not an option. As I continued through secondary and undergraduate education, I realized education was greatly enhanced with mentorship.

 

   As a STEM Educator my goal is to increase STEM knowledge among my students and the communities we serve. By making STEM education relatable  and accessible,  we simultaneously increase the retention of Black students in STEM majors. As a STEM Educator, one of top priorities is to create a path for the next generation. 

Activist

     From the arrival of the first slaves in 1619, African culture and people have been a vital part of the American story. Yet the African prescience, rights, and desires are often diminished due to institutionalized racism. As a scientific activist I want to translate our findings into campaigns for reform regarding injustices observed in diverse populations due to race, low economic status, and/ or cultural practices. 

 

     The ultimate goal of our research is to prioritize diversity and inclusion in genomic research. We believe this end will have a direct influence on social justice reform for communities within the African Diaspora. This objective will be met by using scientific research to change the narrative surrounding chronic disease, ethnicity, and race relations, within the African Diaspora (AD). Moreover, investigating population substructure within the AD is the first step to understanding human variation and phenotypic outcomes. 

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Jennifer Caldwell

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