Leadership Summit speaker Dr. Sibrina Collins is a chemist, educator, writer and strong advocate for diversity in STEM fields. As executive director of The Marburger STEM Center at Lawrence Technological University, she is leading programs to attract young students into science, technology, engineering and math careers.

In this interview, she talks about her career journey and having mentors and cheerleaders to lead her on.

Q. What attracted you to the science field?

A. I became interested in chemistry as a community college student. I enrolled in a chemistry class for non-science majors and earned an A in the course. I actually thought the class was easy, so I decided chemistry was the right path. The courses got much harder, but I was hooked! 

Q. What was the key turning point in your career?

A. A key turning point for me was engaging in undergraduate research at Wayne State. I was awarded an NIH MARC (Maximizing Access to Research Careers) Fellowship, which put me on a path to earning my PhD in inorganic chemistry.

Q. Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

A. I have been honored to have many mentors and cheerleaders along the way. However, Dr. Marie Maynard Daly, the first African American women to earn a PhD in chemistry (1948, Columbia U) has been a tremendous inspiration. In the 1950s, she investigated the important relationship between cholesterol and heart attacks. This is important today because pharmaceutical companies make millions in revenue from cardiovascular drugs.

Q. What is a major challenge you faced in your career? 

A. A major challenge in my career was being denied tenure. This was a tremendously hurtful experience. However, you can learn a key lesson from every experience. I learned that you cannot run from your passions and who you are. I briefly talk about my journey in the new book authored by Jeannette Brown, “African American Women Chemists in the Modern Era.”  

Q. What is the best advice you’ve gotten? 

A. Your happiness is your responsibility.

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