Someone You Should Know: Dr. Christine Darden

Dr. Christine Darden

Dr. Christine Darden was born in Monroe, North Carolina in 1942. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the Hampton Institute, her Master’s in Applied Mathematics from Virginia State College, and her Ph. D. in Mechanical Engineering from George Washington University.

Dr. Darden started her career teaching mathematics to college and high school students. In 1967, she was added as a ‘human computer’ at NASA’s Langley Research Center. She worked for NASA for almost 40 years, retiring in 2007.

At NASA, she began processing data and doing calculations. Dr. Darden was upset that males with equivalent educational backgrounds were being promoted to engineer while she remained as a ‘computer’. After approaching her supervisor about the issue, he promoted her to the engineering division where she was one of the few female aerospace engineers at the time.

Her first task in the engineering division was to write a computer program for the sonic boom. This began her 25-year career in sonic boom minimization. She wrote more than 57 papers and articles while at NASA and was awarded two NASA medals, the Black Engineer of the Year Outstanding Achievement in Government Award, and the Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Darden acknowledged that she was “able to stand on the shoulders of those women who came before me,” such as Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan who were depicted in the film “Hidden Figures”.

Black History Month

February is Black History Month, and Clemson has many events scheduled to commemorate it. From the Clemson Black History Month webpage: “This year, our theme is #BlackEffect: Melanated & Educated. Follow us on social media using the hashtag #CUBlackEffect throughout the month of February.” In particular, the Black History Month Keynote address will be delivered by David Banner on February 26.

AMS: Sexual Harassment and a “Call to Action”

This AMS blog post addresses several aspects of sexual harassment in the mathematical sciences. In particular, it discusses

  • the Fellow revocation policy adopted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • the NSF’s new policy that requires “awardee organizations to notify the agency of (1) Any findings or determinations that an NSF-funded principal investigator or co-principal investigator committed harassment, including sexual harassment or sexual assault. (2) The placement of the principal investigator (PI) or co-principal investigator (co-PI) on administrative leave, or of the imposition of any administrative action relating to a harassment or sexual assault finding or investigation.”

Chronicle Focus Collections

The Chronicle of Higher Education has created a series of “focus collections” many of which deal with issues of diversity. (The link here should work on-campus or off-campus, though off-campus access may require logging in with credentials. Alternatively, these collections are available to individual Chronicle subscribers here.) Collections include the following:

  • Creating a Diverse Faculty
  • Confronting History on Campus
  • Handling Sexual-Assault Accusations
  • Campus Clashes over Free Speech
  • Sexual Boundaries for Professors
  • Dealing with Controversial Speakers on Campus
  • The New Landscape for International Students
  • Battling Sexual Assault on Campus
  • From the Reservation to College
  • How to Help First Generation Students Succeed

Silent Sam

Another turbulent issue from 2018 was the statue “Silent Sam” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The confederate monument was toppled by protesters. Afterward, the university proposed a $5 million history building on campus that would house the statue. Some graduate students held a grading strike over the statue, and the UNC board of Governors rejected the building plan. As far as we know, the statues future is still up in the air.