Women in STEM

Gifted and Giving

Njema J. Frazier, Ph.D., now a member of NSBE Professionals, remembers the day she decided to pursue a career in science: nuclear physics, to be exact.

“My parents enrolled me in a summer program, similar to NSBE’s SEEK (Summer Engineering Experience for Kids) program,” she says. “I loved it so much that I became a student mentor after I aged out of the program.”

“I always loved math as a child, but I didn’t realize I had a real aptitude for math and science until that summer,” says Dr. Frazier, who was born and raised in San Francisco. “Understanding that I had a gift truly changed my life.”

Dr. Frazier went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Carnegie Mellon University and a Ph.D. in nuclear physics from Michigan State University. Today, she is a nuclear physicist in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration in Washington, D.C. She’s also a visiting professor at the National Defense University. That kind of schedule would tire many overachievers, but there’s more. In her free time, she works to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education for African-American children.

This past summer, Dr. Frazier was interviewed by NBC News 4 in New York City about NSBE’s SEEK Academy in Brooklyn, N.Y. “It was a great opportunity to spread the word about NSBE and our commitment to STEM,” she says. “We now have programs in 11 cities. I just can’t say enough good things about SEEK.”

SEEK is a precollege program founded by NSBE in 2007. SEEK engages underrepresented minority students in hands-on, team-based engineering design projects that increase their knowledge and raise their comfort level with science, technology, engineering and math. SEEK’s ultimate goal is to fill the pipeline to engineering careers by introducing kids to engineering as early as kindergarten.

“We want to strengthen that STEM pipeline earlier by fostering students’ interest in math and science,” Dr. Frazier says. “My goal as a NSBE Professionals member is to make sure that I’m working toward ensuring that we foster STEM majors and graduates. I want to see more minorities in STEM in the professional workplace.”

One of NSBE National Chair Sossena Wood’s goals this year is to “Empower Black Women in STEM.” With the help of committed mentors such as Dr. Frazier, who regularly participates in community-based science events that introduce children to science, it’s clear that Chairwoman Wood’s dream is on track. In fact, Dr. Frazier, who says mentoring young NSBE members has been one of the highlights of her career, may just empower a few black men along the way, too.

“We want to strengthen that STEM pipeline earlier by fostering students’ interest in math and science.”