Where I’m Coming From: Tyrone Porter

Alright so this is the nano-medicine and medical
acoustics laboratory. So the research in this laboratory is a combination
of biomedical acoustics, physics, material science, nano-technology, nano-science, and
sort of pharmacology. My name is Tyrone Porter, I’m an associate
professor in mechanical and biomedical engineering here at Boston University. So my home department is mechanical engineering. I’m the only black faculty member in the
department, and that’s fairly reflective of the nation as a whole, there are few African Americans
in the sciences. So I wanted to share just the experiences
of being black at a predominantly white university, and what that means on a day-to-day basis. What I want to do is paint a picture, and
maybe you can even get somebody to illustrate this. So I want to paint a picture, and the picture
is, I grew up in Detroit. And Detroit when I was growing up, it was
at least 75% black. Everybody that I interacted with was black. The school principal was black. The mayor was black. The police chief, he was black. So I was surrounded by people who were excelling,
who all looked like me. Now let’s go to Seattle. The University of Washington, where the school
is only like maybe 3% to 5% black. So that all the students in my
class are now all white. All my teachers are white. Most of the staffing is white. So for me, going from Detroit to Seattle,
put yourself in that position, where you’re the only person of the skin color surrounded
by a completely different color, a completely different culture. A little overwhelming, right? To the senses. You basically feel out a place. It’s like being a child and learning how
to walk and talk and think, all over again. There are days where it’s difficult. There’s days where it’s easy, it’s enriching,
it’s actually invigorating and exciting. The other thing I will need from you is a
table where we basically list all of the studies where transcranial ultrasound frequency combined
with a cavitation nuclei, which predominantly will be bubbles, for mechanical ablation in
the brain. Does it cross my mind? You know, today it doesn’t. But when I first started, I was concerned
that people felt that I was just a diversity hire, that I was only here on the merits of
my skin color, and not on the merits of my intellectual abilities, what I brought to the table research-wise. If you’re white, that maybe never
even crosses your mind. And I felt like I had to prove something,
not just as a scientist, but also as a scientist who happens to be black. Being in Boston as a scientist has been
invigorating, it’s been special. What it has done for me is allowed me to pursue
projects in so many different areas that I probably would not have even considered before. The Acoustical Society is my scientific home,
the Acoustical Society of America. I recently was elected to the college of fellows. It’s almost like a
stamp of approval. As a scientist, it’s enthralling, because
I know my colleagues and my peers value my contributions. As a black scientist, then I can share that
with black students on campus. Students are gonna look for role models. They’re gonna look for mentors. And in many cases, I remember when I was in
college, I looked for people who looked like me, I felt like could understand where I was
coming from. And since I’ve been here, I’ve been an
advisor for the National Society of Black Engineers, I’ve been an advisor for the
Black Student Union, UMOJA. We just talk about world politics, world events,
we talk about leadership, talk about NSBE, talk about life. What’s next after BU? There’s no class for that. So I’m opening the door for other
people of color.

2 thoughts on “Where I’m Coming From: Tyrone Porter

  1. Loved it! Black representation in academia is great for the country! And Tyrone's story makes me appreciate HBCUs even more.

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