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Black History Month
2022 Honoree

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Stacey D. Finley

Stacey D. Finley

Associate Professor

Nichole A. and Thuan Q. Pham Professorship

Biomedical Engineering

University of Southern California

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Kansas City (Kansas).

 

Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.

I remember being interested in math from 6th grade. I enjoyed math  and the excitement of doing well in class. That interest was deepened as my math teachers invested time and energy in my learning. One of those people was Mr. Dale May, my high school algebra teacher. I came to his class after school wanting to learn more, and his door was always open. In college, Dr. Sonya Stephens, my calculus II professor at Florida A&M University, was very instrumental. She was a Black woman in full command of the material and the classroom. She made me think it was possible to pursue an advanced degree in a field whose foundation was mathematics.

 

What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences?

I am extremely proud of my first external research grant that was funded – the NSF CAREER award. This grant supported my research to use mathematical modeling to study how certain proteins stimulate cells to form new blood vessels in tumors. The funding allowed me to train several Ph.D. students and publish foundational research articles, and it really helped to further my independent research career. What makes me even more proud is that this grant allowed me to develop DrEAMM (“Driving Excitement about Mathematical Modeling”), an engaging, hands-on curriculum to increase interest in math in 4th graders. That is an age where children turn away from math and computational thinking. I have continually refined the DrEAMM content and shared it with several groups. I am proud of bridging research and outreach, which is a priority of my lab.

 

What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life?

I am most proud of balancing (juggling!) my family alongside my career. I am married and have two daughters and a son. My children can see and feel that they are a priority, and they know I am passionate about my career. I strive to be someone they can look up to. Many junior trainees feel that it is not possible to succeed professionally and personally. I am proud to shatter that misconception.

 

Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.

As someone from a minoritized group in math and engineering, it is easy to get discouraged about being the only or one of just a handful of Black scientists in your department, school, or field. I have tried to combat those feelings directly by connecting with communities of scholars who encourage, advocate for, and support each other. They have made pursuing an academic career easier. At the same, I have had to embrace the feeling of being one of just a few Black women in my field. I use it as an opportunity to stand out and shine more brightly, and to try to inspire young trainees about what is possible.