Top African Americans in Technology - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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Donya Douglas, an associate branch head at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, conducts research to help control temperature and avoid loss of performance on space equipment. (NASA)

Over the next few days will introduce to you three digeratis who are reshaping the world.  In the first of our three-part series, meet NASA’s Donya Douglas.

As a thermal engineer at NASA, Donya Douglas’ research isn’t as far out as one might think. In fact, you might not have to reach any further than your lap to benefit from the technologies that she designs.  Douglas, an instrument systems branch associate head at NASA, conducts heating and cooling research to help control temperature and avoid loss of performance on space crafts, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, and in laptop computers.

You can also find the technologies she’s helped create used to produce heat in water systems and to provide humidity and temperature control in office buildings.

Douglas’ extraordinary interests in science were instilled at a young age, and when she spoke with she emphasized how important it is that she gives back to help young black students generate that same zeal for technology. How did you become interested in your career field?

Donya Douglas: I was always drawn to science and math during my early school years, and had a keen interest in how things worked. By the age of ten, I knew I wanted to be an engineer and by the time I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to work for NASA.  During my sophomore year, when I was selected for an internship with NASA Wallops Flight Facility, I eagerly accepted. Working at NASA early allowed me to broaden my exposure to many different engineering disciplines, and also gave me an opportunity to see both women and minorities in highly technical fields.

What are some of the challenges African Americans face in the science and technology fields?

While there has certainly been an increase in the number of minorities and women in these fields, historically African Americans have been underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). I believe that this is primarily due to the fact that we are not exposed to the application of science and technology early in our academic pursuits.  As a result, these areas may not seem relevant or even interesting. Additionally, we often believe that math and science are too difficult.  Believing that you can do well in these areas is more than half the battle. I intend to remain in a technical management position. This will allow me to mentor and play a larger role in the development of younger professionals.

How did you overcome those challenges?

Very early in my academic experience, I had teachers that guided me through my schooling.  They provided opportunities for me to participate in extra-curricular activities involving science demos, field trips, math competitions, etc.  My father raised my

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.