Jordan Chapman is from South Philadelphia and is currently studying anthropology at the University of Georgia. His research allows him to focus on the geosciences. Check out our exclusive interview with him below.
What first got you interested in S.T.E.M? Geology? Archaeology?
I became interested in STEM in my 2nd year of community college. I was studying music at the time, but after taking an archaeology class, I decided to learn more about how people lived in the past. However, the community college didn’t have a degree in archaeology so I decided to transfer to Penn State University. One of my first classes at Penn State was a geology class and I had the same exact feeling when I took my first archaeology class so I decided I needed to do both and become a geoarchaeologist. A few years later I graduated with degrees in both fields and a minor in geography!
Black men are very under-represented in S.T.E.M– especially at the graduate school level and beyond. What challenges have you had to overcome to remain in S.T.E.M. and maintain your passion here? How did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge has been finding a sense of community. Like the rest of S.T.E.M, archaeology and geology are both highly underrepresented for Black and minority students. Plus, being in two fields makes me feel like an oddball sometimes because a lot of archaeologists only care about archaeology and a lot of geologists only care about geology. Overcoming this feeling has meant being comfortable with being a little strange sometimes, finding ways to look for intersections between the two fields, and working effectively at both because it can be very overwhelming learning two different sciences. Another way I’ve tried to overcome these challenges is by helping make science easier to get into for everybody. That’s why I started the Black Science Coalition and Institute or B-SCI, so no matter who you are or how old you are, you can always learn more about science.
What advice could you give to junior scholars who are interested in pursuing a S.T.E.M field?
If you like science, then you can be a scientist! People think science is about being super smart all the time, but honestly, science is about being wrong and then figuring out how to be better the next time. Sure it’s easier if you are naturally gifted, but it’s like anything else. If you are a musician and you miss a note or a basketball player and you miss a shot, you just try again until you do it right and you’re learning every step of the way. The main difference is that scientists write everything down and follow the scientific method. So my advice is to follow the scientific method, write stuff down, and B-Scientists whenever possible!
Outside of research, you have an incredible podcast that discusses critical issues that Black scientists face, while also showcasing some of the incredible things within this community (from our incredible music tastes all the way to social and racial justice). What is it like having a podcast and using this platform to share information with listeners?
It’s been great! Starting B-SCI’s B-Scientists podcast has been a challenge, but it’s a good challenge! Working with Jana Carpenter, who is the co-host of B-Scientists, is always fun, and other members of B-SCI are going to start showing up in different episodes soon which will only make the show better. People, including me, don’t realize how creative scientists can be at times, but that’s been my favorite part of the show. From the intro music to planning different episodes, we’re constantly thinking of new ways to bring science to people in ways that we didn’t even consider before. Personally, I hope this leads to us making YouTube videos with different members of B-SCI. We have so many good ideas and it’s always fun working with everyone!
What is something you wish more people knew about you and the work that you do?
I wish more people understood that science can be challenging, but it’s a great tool for millions of reasons. I have a lot of interests and I recently learned I have ADHD, so using the scientific method helps me keep track of the things I’m interested in by simply writing and logging things into a journal when I can remember. Science gives you a way to try to get better not just at science but also at other things. That’s why I try to encourage others to be scientists themselves, if I can inspire someone to use the scientific method and it improves their life and maybe they even have fun doing it, then even if it’s only one person, it would all be worth it. I hope I can have that impact with B-SCI!