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Celebrate African American History Month with Festival Speakers Who Are Shaping the Future of STEM!


Darren Higgins Nifty Fifty speakerEarlier in his career, Darren Higgins was well on his way to becoming a physician until he became captivated by the science and mystery of bacteria -- namely the curious and fascinating body of pathogens, including Salmonella, Shigella, and Neisseria, that he would often observe on slides under his microscope as a med student.

However, there was one bacterial strain that particularly intrigued him: Listeria, a deadly, but largely overlooked, food-borne pathogen that under the right circumstances can kill more people faster than anthrax. Darren soon abandoned his plans for medical school and decided to devote his career researching Listeria and other bacteria, focusing particularly on the scientific detective work necessary to determine how these pathogens live, get inside cells, replicate, spread disease, cause death -- and what scientists can do to stop them.

Today, Darren, Associate Professor of Microbiology at Harvard Medical School, is noted as one of the nation’s leading scientists and innovators in this quest. He gained international recognition in 2005 when he and his colleagues at Harvard developed a vaccine for Listeria based on an immunotherapy strategy that is now also being applied to more common illnesses like malaria, salmonella, tuberculosis and herpes.

In observance of African American History Month in February, the Festival recognizes the accomplishments of Darren and many other African American pioneers and the important role they have played -- and continue to play -- in paving the way for future African-American leaders and innovators in STEM.

Equally exciting, students will have the unforgettable opportunity to meet and interact with Darren and other esteemed achievers and trailblazers this April during the Festival´s X-STEM Symposium and Nifty Fifty (times 4) school speakers program, which represents 200 of the nation's most engaging, high-profile leaders in STEM. As we celebrate African American History Month, we'd like to introduce you to key African American STEM innovators who as Nifty Fifty speakers will be engaging students in the coming weeks about their work and careers in STEM during visits to middle and high schools throughout the Washington, D.C. metro area, and on April 14 will serve as presenters at the Festival Expo´s X-STEM Symposium at the D.C. Convention Center.

These exciting X-STEM and Nifty Fifty speakers include:

2016 X-STEM Speakers:

Christopher Emdin, Ph.D.-- This hip, exciting professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Columbia University has gained national attention for his genius in connecting kids in science through the rhythm and beat of urban hip-hop! Discover STEM in a new way through the magic of writing science raps and engaging in science rap battles!

Patricia Bath, M.D. -- Growing up in Harlem, she had the undying dream to become a physician. Learn how she not only fulfilled that dream, but also made medical history as the inventor of the surgical procedure and device that revolutionized how cataracts are removed!

Kipp Bradford -- You´ll be inspired to get on board the growing Maker Movement when this noted MIT bioengineer and founder of KippKitts, LLC takes you deep inside the fascinating world of hacking and DIY manufacturing!

Learn more about the nearly SOLD OUT X-STEM Symposium by clicking here (Note: talks for speakers above may be at full capacity).

Be sure to visit our X-STEM Video Library to view talks from our 2014 & 2015 X-STEM Symposium featuring Bernard A. Harris, Jr., MD, MBA, Physician and former NASA Astronaut, Baratunde “Bara” Cola, Ph.D.,  Professor of Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech and Frederic Bertley Ph.D., Scientist and Educator at the Franklin Institute.

Nifty Fifty Speakers:

James H. Johnson Jr., Ph.D. -- As one of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s top scientists, this noted researcher not only sheds light on how the EPA is using the latest in STEM technology to protect human health and the environment from potential hazards, but also shares some nifty, practical things we can all do each day to protect the planet!

Darren Higgins, Ph.D. -- You’ll marvel at this young Harvard microbiologist, who is already known for developing a viable vaccine for the deadly bacteria, Listeria, and co-founding the amazing startup Genocea Biosciences!

Tolulope “Tolu” Olugboji, Ph.D.-- Growing up in his native country of Nigeria, this University of Maryland geoscientist excelled at using the computer to solve daunting problems in math and physics. Get ready for hands-on excitement as he demonstrates how his high-tech computer models are today studying seismic activity deep beneath the Earth’s surface!

Kimberly Flagg Sellers – Let this trailblazing statistician and mathematician demonstrate how the power of Statistics is making a difference globally in a wide range of areas -- from helping scientists track incidence of disease and population trends to understanding the stock market and migratory patterns of whales, birds and other wildlife!

Dr. Reginald Brothers -- From detecting and responding to national security matters such as cyber hacking and bioterrorism, discover how this leader as Under Secretary for Science and Technology at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is using the latest in science to keep America safe!


And check out our Role Models in Science & Engineering featuring the accomplishments of African American pioneers and the important role they have played in paving the way for modern-day African American STEM leaders and innovators!