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Women’s History Month: Science is for Everyone

By Dr. Jeanette Davis, Marine Microbiologist and Policy Advisory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

My name is Dr. Jeanette Davis. I am Marine Microbiologist and Policy Advisor to the Deputy Undersecretary at the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). I started my journey as a scientist at Hampton University where, as a freshman, I participated in Multicultural Students at Sea Together where I lived at-sea on a 53-foot sailboat to learn marine policy and maritime history of Native and African Americans while conducting research on the Chesapeake Bay. This initial introduction to marine science as the youngest African American woman to participate in the program, set a standard for excellence. After earning a B.S. in Marine and Environmental Science, I earned a Ph.D. in Marine Microbiology from the University of Maryland, College Park where I made significant contributions to how our ocean impacts human health and medicine. I was honored to be cited in Science Magazine for my contribution in helping to discover a marine microorganism that produces an anticancer compound.

Since joining NOAA in 2015, I have taken my scientific skills and applied them to a range of topics throughout NOAA including sea turtle monitoring, invasive species management, and fisheries conservation and management. I spent 18 consecutive days living on a NOAA research vessel to help conduct unprecedented studies on how genetic tools can improve fisheries stock assessments. As the Policy Advisor to the Deputy Undersecretary of NOAA, I am proud to provide guidance and support on NOAA’s operational and science programs and help coordinate the implementation of ‘omics (molecular tools) throughout NOAA science missions. Some of my notable achievements throughout my eight years at NOAA include co-authoring the White House Science and Technology Ocean Decadal Plan where I led the creation of the chapter on oceans and human health. I also have served as the U.S. representative for two intergovernmental advisory panels where I have traveled to various countries to coordinate science and co-authored the NOAA ‘Omics Strategy and Implementation Plan to implement a NOAA wide ‘omics program. Due to my contributions to science and policy, I have been an invited participant in the U.S. Department of State U.S. Speaker Program serving as an expert on marine drug discovery and uses of technology to further marine discoveries to international audiences. My efforts have led to receiving several awards including the North American Invasive Species Management Association - Rita Beard Visionary Leadership Award and the Women of Color – Technology Rising Star Award.

Outside of my professional career at NOAA, I am strong advocate of community and diversity and, my motto is that science is for everyone. We all need to be accepted in science to effectively contribute to science. Women’s History Month is an extension of acceptance and inclusion. It’s an opportunity to not only amplify the voices of women but empower and uplift traditionally marginalized groups. It’s important to recognize women and their contribution to society, particularly in the field of science where women are often not acknowledged or rewarded for their contributions to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). While I have faced obstacles as a woman in science, it’s imperative that women build a community to support each other and tell our own stories. The Commerce Department has a mission to create a workplace that is diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible to every employee. Allowing women throughout the Department to share their accomplishments and journey is a wonderful way to work towards such a mission. I hope that sharing my journey will encourage the next generation of women scientists, lawyers, administrators, and thought leaders.

This blog post is part of a series showcasing the women leaders from across the U.S. Department of Commerce in honor of Women's History Month.