TED Biologist Danielle N. Lee Wants A Science Show: ‘David Attenborough, Move Over. What Y’all Need Is A Southern Accent’

TED Biologist Danielle N. Lee Wants A Science Show: ‘David Attenborough, Move Over. What Y’all Need Is A Southern Accent’

Blacks In STEM
Research Biologist / event honoree Danielle N. Lee attends The Root 100 Gala, honoring the most influential African Americans of the past year, at Guastavino’s on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP)

Award-winning biologist Danielle N. Lee wants to see more young people with melanin in STEM. She thinks having her own, hood-version of a science show could help accomplish that.

“It’d be awesome to do a whole … a hood version, if you will, of a nature show, of me explaining, “You see what’s happening now? Let me explain this … David Attenborough, move over. What y’all need is a Southern accent,” Lee said at a recent TED conference, according to Recode.

Lee is assistant professor of biology at Southern Illinois University who has long been an outspoken advocate of making science more inclusive and increasing Blacks participation in STEM. She believes youth from urban neighborhoods can better grasp scientific concepts if they are taught in a relatable way. She even uses hip-hop to teach her classes.

“I want to see other copies of me. Young women, young people, who come from the hood, who come from urban areas, who come from the South, who come from working-class families, and come from teen moms … Those people have expertise and genius,” Lee said.

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Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Lee said she grew up studying the ecology of animals and systems in her neighborhood, but had no idea that’s what she was actually doing. She’s used platforms like blogging, social media, teaching and speaking to communicate science to audiences in a culturally relevant context, Recode said.

Lee is among a growing number of Black women in STEM working to see more of themselves in the field. She wants to give Black kids the permission to be themselves, even when that doesn’t fit neatly into a stereotypical box.

“We don’t often think about all these different layers and flavors of genius. And you have so many nerdy Black and brown kids, and they need to know it’s all right to be hood and nerdy at the same time