Then vs. Now: Experiences of Black Women in MIT Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

Then vs. Now was a panel WIC and GWiChE hosted on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020 from 1 – 3 PM. The theme, an idea provided by Corshai Williams in MIT Chemistry, focused the event on learning how MIT supported Black women graduate students during Professor Paula Hammond’s time as a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemical Engineering and currently for graduate students K’yal Bannister (Chemical Engineering), Corshai Williams (Chemistry), and Kayla Storme (Chemistry).

This event was inspired by discussions from #ShutDownSTEM, which both MIT Chemistry and Chemical Engineering held, and to support the BGSA petition for Supporting Black Lives at MIT. There were 70+ attendees for this panel from both departments, including some faculty. WIC and GWiChE intend to hold similar events in the future to continue conversations that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Meet the Panelists

Corshai Williams

Corshai Williams is a graduate of Virginia Union University in Richmond, VA where she received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry. In April of 2018, she received the American Chemical Society (ACS) Award for Outstanding Senior in Chemistry in the Virginia Section. 

Corshai is 2018 Rhodes Scholarship Finalist and is currently a second-year graduate student in Tim Jamison’s lab. With the hope of strengthening the Black community at MIT, Corshai opted to serve on the executive board of the MIT Black Graduate Student Association as treasurer for the 2018-2019 academic year. In her spare time Corshai likes to roller-skate and enjoys street photography. 

K’yal Bannister

K’yal received her BS in chemistry from Spelman College and her BS in chemical engineering from Caltech as a part of their dual degree engineering program. As a chemical engineering PhD student in the Prather Lab, she combines metabolic engineering and synthetic biology to create novel pathways to sustainable materials in bacteria. K’yal is also a twin and enjoys reading, rollerblading, and staying “woke.”

Kayla Storme

Kayla received her BS in Biochemistry from University of Illinois at Chicago as well as an Associate in Applied Science in Operations Engineering from Joliet Junior College. She is an NSF GRFP Fellow enrolled in MIT’s Program for Polymers and Soft Matter and is a rising 2nd year PhD student in Chemistry co-advised by Tim Swager in Chemistry and Zach Smith in Chemical Engineering. Her research focuses on the novel synthesis and characterization of polymer membranes for chemical separations. In addition to her research, Kayla often enjoys riding her motorcycle (usually between the east coast and midwest) in her spare time.

Paula Hammond

Paula received her BS in Chemical Engineering from MIT, MS in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, and her PhD in Chemical Engineering from MIT. She is a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, the MIT Energy Initiative, a founding member of the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology, the David H. Koch Chair Professor of Engineering at MIT, and the Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering. Paula’s research focuses on the use of electrostatics and other complementary interactions to generate functional materials with highly controlled architecture, developing new biomaterials to enable drug deliver from surfaces with spatio-temporal control, investigating novel responsive polymer architectures for targeted nanoparticle drug and gene delivery, and developing self-assembled materials systems for electrochemical energy devices. She has received several awards and honors including the 2018 ACS Award in Applied Polymer Science and being one of 25 distinguished scientists elected into the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Medicine in 2019, 2017, and 2016, respectively.

If you would like to see the recording of this event, please visit this page.