Meet Dr. Ashanti Johnson, the First Black Woman to be a Chemical Oceanographer in the U.S.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ashanti Johnson
Lifting as she climbs has always been the motto for Dr. Ashanti Johnson.
From the outside looking in, it may seem as though she’s done it all! From working as a scientist to serving as an administrator for a nonprofit and even working in the industry at Exxon and Texas Instruments — Dr. Johnson is a woman who has worn many hats.
Even down to helping to found and start a charter school system, Dr. Johnson has allowed her background in chemical oceanography to open doors, but what’s been most important for her is helping others along the way.
“Although I love the ocean and I love the animals, I enjoy seeing the smiles and satisfaction of everyone that I help to achieve their goals even more,” said Dr. Johnson in an interview with AfroTech.
As the first Black woman to be a chemical oceanographer in the country and the only African American to receive a Ph.D. in chemical oceanography at Texas A&M Galveston, she knows what it’s like to be the only one within her STEM field. Now, she wants to ensure that others don’t have her same experience.
“My experience at Texas A&M for grad school is when I initially decided that I would make it easier for others,” said Dr. Johnson. “I wanted to ensure that they would not have to struggle and do all of the proving that I had to do without a support system.”
It was here that her programs were birthed. Programs like when she was a professor at the University of South Florida and was afforded the opportunity to have a graduate fellowship program.
“Not only was I doing my science on radio nuclei in different areas, but I was able to offer people of color the opportunity to work on their doctoral degrees while there,” continued Dr. Johnson. “I supported many students of color including some phenomenal Black women who’ve gone on to get their Ph.D.’s and have done work all over the world. ”
For Dr. Johnson, she says that it’s exciting to see the next generation coming up and smashing ceilings within the field of chemical oceanography.
Currently, she works as an associate professor of chemistry at Fort Valley State University. This allows her to continue to run her professional development and mentorship program for minorities in STEM — a position that she worked out with the university to allow her to host the program and ultimately led to her appointment in the chemistry department.
She has received more than $15 million in grants from federal agencies like the National Science Foundation and NASA to operate the programs at their full potential. She’s also the CEO of STEM Human Resource Development.
Along with her role in chemical oceanography, Dr. Johnson holds the title of a mother to three children who she mentions may love the water just as much as she does!
To contact and learn more about Dr. Ashanti Johnson, click here.