There’s only one
Dr. Shirley Malcom
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For your career in science, there’s only one
o Dr. Shirley Malcom, born and raised in the segregated South more than 65 years ago, a career based
on her studies in science seemed even less likely than the launch of the Soviet’s Sputnik. But with Sputnik’s
success, the Space Race officially started and, in an instant, brought a laser-like focus to science education
and ways to deliver a proper response. Not long after, Dr. Malcom entered the picture.
Although black schools at the time received fewer dollars per student and did not have sufficient
resources to maintain their labs at a level equivalent to the white schools, Dr. Malcom found her way to the
University of Washington where she succeeded in obtaining a B.S. in spite of the difficulties of being an
African American woman in the field of science. From there she went on to earn a Ph.D. in ecology from
Penn State and held a faculty position at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.
Dr. Malcom has served at the AAAS in multiple capacities, and is presently Head of the Directorate for
Education and Human Resources Programs. Nominated by President Clinton to the National Science Board, she
also held a position on his Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. She is currently a member of the
Caltech Board of Trustees, a Regent of Morgan State University, and co-chair of the Gender Advisory Board of
the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development. She has held numerous other positions of
distinction and is the principal author of The Double Bind: The Price of Being a Minority Woman in Science.
Of her active career in science, Dr. Malcom says, “I guess I have become a poster child for taking
one’s science background and using that in many other ways: we ask questions; we try to under-
stand what we find; we consider what evidence we would need to confirm or refute hypotheses.
And that happens in whatever setting one finds oneself.”
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