In honor of Black History Month let’s celebrate Dr. Jewel Plummer Cobb.
Photo Credit: California State University State Library
Dr. Jewel Plummer Cobb is a cell biologist/cell physiologist, educator, professor, administrator, and former president of California State University, Fullerton. Dr. Cobb was born in Chicago, Illinois on January 17, 1924 from a middle class surrounded by medical journals and science books at her home library. Her father was a physician, her grandfather was a pharmacist and she became the third generation in her family to pursue a science field. After completing high school she graduated from Talladega College in Alabama in 1944 with a B.S. degree in Biology. Then, she attended graduate school at New York University where she earned a M.S. degree in Cell Physiology in 1947 and a PhD in Cell Physiology in 1950.
Ever since she first looked at cells through a microscope in her high school biology class she knew that she wanted to pursue a research career. She wanted to understand the theory of diseases and as a scientist she would have this opportunity. Dr. Cobb’s research focused on the skin pigment melanin and relation to skin tumors. She tested chemotherapeutic drugs in cancer cells, specializing in cell biology.
In addition to her research she has held several academic positions: Professor at Sarah Lawrence College (1960-1969), Dean and Professor of Zoology at Connecticut College (1969-1976), Director of ACCESS Center at California State University, Los Angeles and President of California State University, Fullerton (1981-1990). She retired in 1990.
In honor of her achievements as a leading cancer researcher she has 22 honorary doctorates, elected to the National Academy of Sciences, in 1974 and later in 1995 received the Kilby Award for lifetime achievement.
Dr. Jewel Plummer Cobb is an inspirational Mademoiselle Scientist. She is an example that if you have the determination and a passion for science you can overcome any rejections you face. If you want to become a research scientist you can do it despite your rejections. Even though she faced rejection because of her race she did not let that stop her from succeeding. Not only is she a successful research scientist, she is an advocate for women and minorities in science. This is why I created Mademoiselle Scientist, a way to support the next generation of scientists by advocating for the next generation of scientists, especially those traditionally underrepresented in STEM careers.
If you want to learn more about Dr. Jewel Plummer Cobb’s life, check out this video and the links below: