Science needs more people of color and women in its ranks.
The Changing Face of Science exhibition series highlights the work of scientists and science educators who are women and/or people of color, along with their passion for advancing knowledge of life on Earth.
The first exhibition of this series honored Lynika Strozier, who was a Black woman, a Chicagoan, a person with a learning disability, an educator, and a former scientist at the Field Museum. But to her colleagues, friends, and family she was also a mentor, a light, and a force for joy. Here’s her story.
Lynika was born on August 28, 1984 in Birmingham, AL, and moved to Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood to live with her grandmother (“Granny”) when she was six years old. At the age of eight she was diagnosed with a learning disability. She struggled with math, but reading was even more of a challenge. When she read aloud, it sometimes sounded like she was gasping for breath. Fast forward to high school: she performed well enough to earn a full scholarship to the University of Northern Iowa. But she failed to make the adjustment, flunked out after the first year, and lost her scholarship.
You get knocked down so many times, you learn how to pick yourself up.Lynika
It wasn’t until Lynika tried college again that something clicked: she liked to use her hands, and she was good at it. She went on to earn her undergraduate degree in biology, and worked in a lab on campus. It was her job to “feed” clusters of cells called cell lines by replenishing the nutrient-rich media that the cells lived in. It was here that Lynika realized she had a real connection to science, a connection she wanted to pursue.
Joining the Field Museum
Lynika started at the Field Museum as an intern in 2009. Because she could sample and extract DNA from specimens across the collections, she was said to have “hands of gold.” From moss, to ants, to birds and beyond: Lynika was everyone’s go-to girl.
Lynika’s goal: to get students like her in the lab
Lynika wanted to give students, especially POC students and those from underserved communities, an opportunity to see what hands-on science looked like. She knew she wanted to pursue higher degrees in science, but what could she do to start connecting with students? Spurred on by her mentors and friends, she decided to complete master’s degrees in biology and science education—simultaneously.
The student became the teacher
Fresh off completing her two masters degrees, Lynika joined the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in 2018 as their BioArt Lab Coordinator. Her ultimate goal? She wanted to give students, especially POC students and those from underserved communities, an opportunity to see what hands-on science looked like.
Lynika filmed these lab tutorial videos for the School of the Art Institute’s BioArt program. Footage courtesy of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Leaving a legacy of mentorship, scientific collaboration, and love
Lynika passed away in 2020 due to complications resulting from COVID-19. The world lost a brilliant scientist too soon, but as anyone who knew her will tell you: she continues to be a force for good and a science champion.
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Want to be a scientist but don’t know where to start?
Here are some resources and programs that Lynika might've recommended.
Field Museum Women in Science internships
Interns engaging in collections-based research and communicating science. This program aims at building a foundation and setting the standard for diversity across the museum and within STEM.
Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Field Museum Teen Learning Experiences-Learning Center
Youth programs that connect Chicagoland area teens and pre-teens to natural history and world cultures while helping them prepare for college and careers in STEM.
Questions about teen opportunities? Contact email@example.com Questions about digital learning opportunities? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org