Editor's note: The Scientist talked at length with four black scientists and aspiring researchers about the problems they have faced living in a culture that offers them little or no encouragement to become professional scientists. The individuals stand at vastly different stages of their careers and pursue different fields, and their experiences vary dramatically. But their stories illuminate the problems facing black scientists in the United States, and hint at possible solutions.


"At a certain level, you have to stop feeling unusual."

But even as Shirley Jackson speaks those words, she knows that she can't escape being unusual. In 1973, she became the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics from MIT. Now she is possibly the sole black woman physicist at AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J. Whether she likes it or not, Jackson is a role model. And that puts her in a...

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