Jay-Anne Johnson Makes History As The First Black Woman To Earn A Biophysical Chemistry Degree In Virginia
Photo Credit: James Madison University

Jay-Anne Johnson Makes History As The First Black Woman To Earn A Biophysical Chemistry Degree In Virginia

Jay-Anne Johnson is making history.

According to WHSV-TV, Johnson will soon graduate from James Madison University (JMU) with a degree in biophysical chemistry. She will be the first Black woman in Virginia history to achieve such an accomplishment.

While Johnson said that she was pleased she was able to achieve such a feat, the accomplishment didn’t come easy.

She told WHSV-TV that, oftentimes, she would be the only Black student in her classes.

“It wasn’t until really like the first couple of weeks of class. You’re looking around and you kind of notice you’re the only student in the class that looks like you,” she told the outlet.

While Jay-Anne Johnson is the first Black woman to get a biophysical chemistry degree from the university, Ben Ashamole was the first Black person, ever, to get a biophysical chemistry degree from the university.

These accomplishments, while great on their own, also highlight the lack of diversity in STEM courses — not just at JMU, but in universities all across the country.

According to JMU’s website, however, they’re looking to change all of that.

“We are developing new on-campus high school STEM programs that aim to facilitate students’ understanding of social injustices by showing them how they can be part of the solution through applying the skills and ways of thinking used in the integration of Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics. These programs will equally frame STEM in the context of society and society in the context of STEM,” they wrote, adding that the programs will be implemented in the Spring of 2022. 

For Jay-Anne Johnson, however, she hopes to set the bar for other students to follow in her footsteps, and that she’s the first — and last — Black woman to feel like the “lonely only” in her classes.

“Together in hopefully five or 10 years, we flood the hospitals, we flood the health care world, we flood the stem field with Black chemists, with Black engineers, with Black biologists, and just let them know that we as Black people are amazing,” she said.