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For many of us, the past year and a half may have seemed to slow way down. And in fact, some studies have shown just this. But Maynard Okereke’s life has been anything but slow recently. He just got back from a month at sea where he worked with a team of oceanographers and roboticists to map the deep ocean and explore hydrothermal vents. That was right after he spent some time experiencing the sensation of weightlessness during a “zero gravity” flight with a group called Space for Humanity. And at the end of 2020 he even made an appearance on Shark Tank to co-pitcha “plant-based chicken.” (The nonchicken chicken wowed the “sharks” and received venture funding.)
Okereke, better known as the “Hip Hop M.D.,” is all hustle for science. Recently he (virtually) sat down with the Springer Nature Black Employee Network to discuss his background, accomplishments and current projects.
Click here to watch an extended version of the interview.
Okereke graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in civil engineering. He remembers growing up as “one of very few minorities” in his classes. These experiences became more prevalent as he became older and moved into the workspace. “Going into my job as a lead engineer and walking into a room and people not believing I was the lead scientist or engineer…, having those experiences while I was working professionally really impacted me and was always something that stood front and center,” he says.
Okereke started a platform called Hip Hop Science with the goal of encouraging people from minority groups and youth to pursue more advanced career paths. He uses the avenues of music, entertainment and comedy as tools to educate on a wide variety of subjects with a style that he describes as “Bill Nye meets Worldstar.”
This discussion is part of a speaker series hosted by the Black Employee Network at Springer Nature, the publisher of Scientific American. The series aims to highlight Black contributions to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)—a history that has not been widely recognized. It will cover career paths, role models and mentorship, and diversity in STEM.