Neuroscience alumni among 1,000 inspiring Black scientists in America

Feb. 10, 2021

Nathan A. Smith, Ph.D. (’13) and Monique Mendes, Ph.D. (’20) were named two of the 1,000 inspiring Black scientists in America in Cell Mentor.Nathan A. Smith is wearing a dark blue blazer with a blue shirt and red and blue checkered tie. He is smiling witha short beard. He is standing outside on a fall day.

Smith was the first Black graduate of the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Rochester Medical Center and is now a principal investigator in the Center for Neuroscience Research at The Children's National Hospital and Research Institute and the Director of Basic Neuroscience Research. He is also an assistant professor of Pediatrics and Pharmacology and Physiology at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“This recognition is such an honor, and I am extremely grateful to be featured among these inspiring individuals. Even though this list is far from complete, I believe it is a step in the right direction to show that we exist and do some pretty amazing things,” Smith said.

MendeMonquie Mendes wearing white top and black coat, she is smiling with her hair pulled back, with turquiose earrings. She is standing in front of a brick wall with green vines.s was the first Black female to graduate from the program, she is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University.

“This recognition is exciting. It’s an honor to be recognized and associated with so many talented, inspiring and trailblazing Black scientists,” Mendes said. “This list is SO important. Black scientists need to be lifted up and supported. I have no doubt that this list will continue to grow. I am excited for the future.” 

“Both Dr. Smith and Dr. Mendes were incredibly brilliant and motivated students. This is such well-deserved recognition,” John Foxe, Ph.D., director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience and chair of the Department of Neuroscience. “I know they both continue to inspire students and faculty in our department. I hope this allows their hard work and grit to inspire generations to come.”

Both Smith and Mendes see this recognition as more of an opportunity for others, for the Black scientist and students to know they too can pursue a career in science.

“This recognition is important,” Mendes said. “It is a new beginning for future Black scientists and neuroscientists. I hope this list of scientists from various fields will inspire future Black scholars to be fearless, ask difficult questions, and continue to be inquisitive. This list will be pivotal in growing their community and network in and outside of their fields.  I plan to take full advantage of this list. I will continue to build my science village.”

“This list serves as a powerful tool that will inspire a whole new generation of Black Scientists in multiple fields of STEM, including neuroscience,” Smith said. “There is nothing more inspiring for young Black girls and boys than seeing individuals who look like them in STEM because it helps dispel the notion that science is only for a select few. We must never forget science has no limits on any level. Its boundaries are continuous, open, and ready for exploration.”