Jainabah Sarr is our April 2018 Volunteer of the Month. When Jainabah isn’t traversing the country performing physicals and checkups on biomedical machinery that improves lives, she is often found in our Smithsonian Spark!Lab talking with guests about invention and imagination. Read her inspiring words about how she has used STEM in her life.
I’m Jainabah (Jay-nuh-buh) Sarr and I’m honored to represent the Michigan Science Center as volunteer of the month. It is through this organization that my passion for science, technology and education can merge and I can express my creativity through science. I feel fulfilled when a child stares in awe as I present a common experiment. I feel like a magician when someone asks, “How did you do that?!” I’m made whole when I can convey scientific concepts that a young mind can register, so I must thank the MiSci community first.
My maternal lineage is riddled with educators who sought knowledge in a time where resources were blatantly withheld and opportunities weren’t granted to African American women. We are bold women so we created those opportunities! My mother constantly read to me in the womb and continued into my childhood. “Reading is fundamental,” she reminded me. In my home, reading trumps television and education trumps vanity. She taught me that while it’s nice to be pretty, stay focused on challenging your mind and body. She continued to place me into STEM programs throughout elementary and middle school. This included exposure to robotics competitions, space exploration programs, visits to the library, participation in spelling bees and so much more. My mother knew of my cognitive capabilities since I was an early reader who skipped first grade. She made it her duty to ensure that my intelligence wouldn’t be overshadowed by anything including my own self-doubt and insecurities. I was elected into the pilot Environmental Technologies program at Lakewood High School under the leadership of Lisa Weingart, who would help develop my love of Life Sciences. I’d like to thank her so much for her kindness.
I mentioned that my mother cultivated both my mind and body. She ensured that my path to optimal physical health was the one of least resistance so she supported my athletic career through basketball. She attended all games, sent stats to the newspaper, picked up fellow student athletes when needed and I encourage all parents to do the same. Team sports teach leadership and teamwork which are critical skills that need constant exercise into adulthood. I landed a full athletic scholarship to Florida A&M University which helped finance my college experience and ease the load on my mother financially. As a college student athlete, my love for science was deepened as I was selected to work under Dr. Henry Neal Williams in the Environmental Science Institute. His mentorship allowed me access to some of the greatest minds in the nation. I was able to have lunch with Maya Angelou as well as attend a lecture by the magnificent Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson! I matriculated through FAMU with a degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology.
Today, I work as a Field Service engineer for a biotech company. I install, repair and certify several biomedical instruments used in hospitals, universities, private laboratories and more. This role fulfills me because I understand that I directly contribute to ensuring that patients throughout the state receive proper care. Not only do I contribute to patient data and test results, but I also play a key role in scientific innovation as many of our clients are engaged in critical research and development to better our lives. There aren’t many women in this position so I feel as though I am forging a future for the young women in STEM. I am an example of what it means to be bold in an arena full of men. I don’t feel uncomfortable or out of place. The focus is the work and it’s the perfect opportunity to immerse myself through science in a highly technical field. That makes it perfect for me!
Science connects us and I appreciate this field especially because it can be applied to every aspect of our lives. Scientists of all types seek to understand and create solutions. I am dedicated to enriching the community through science in any way. That is why I’m so eager to spend my time in the Michigan Science Center. I look forward to meeting new people and helping Detroit grow. I moved here four years ago with no regrets. This recognition is my confirmation that I am exactly where I need to be so I give many thanks to God, my mother Angelia Waller, the city of Detroit, the Michigan Science Center guests, staff and the other volunteers.
“Art and science are married for a reason. You cannot have one without the other. When you present yourself to the world as a scientist, don’t become an ‘aggregate of facts’. Understand and appreciate art as well for it is more scientific than you may yet understand.”
– Maya Angelou