Racial justice

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Video conference

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Core Faculty in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of New Hampshire, and Research Affiliate in the Science and Technology Studies program at MIT. Prescod-Weinstein recounts her childhood in Los Angeles and her family heritage consisting of her mother from Barbados and her father who is Ashkenazi-Jewish. She discusses her family’s work in civil rights and activism and she explains how she became interested in science in high school. Prescod-Weinstein describes some of the cultural dislocations she felt as an undergraduate at Harvard, where she pursued undergraduate degrees in physics and astronomy and where Lene Hau played a formative role in her studies. She discusses her graduate career at UC Santa Cruz where she worked with Anthony Aguirre, and she explains how her interests in loop quantum gravity compelled to transfer to the University of Waterloo to work with Lee Smolin. Prescod-Weinstein explains how Niayesh Afshordi became her graduate advisor, which brought her interests more fully involved in cosmology and quantum gravity phenomenology. She discusses her postdoctoral work at NASA, where she learned a great deal about telescopes, and she describes her subsequent work as a MLK Fellow at MIT where she worked closely with Ed Bertschinger. Prescod-Weinstein describes her service work for the National Society of Black Physicists, and she discusses her increasing involvement in promoting diversity and inclusivity in STEM. She describes the opportunities leading to her appointment at UNH, and she explains some of the challenges and opportunities teaching in a largely white environment. Prescod-Weinstein describes her involvement in science communication beyond her academic specialty, and she surveys some of the major research endeavors in cosmology she is currently involved in, particularly in the search for dark matter. At the end of the interview, Prescod-Weinstein explains what the STEM community needs to do to further champion racial justice.