Thursday, February 5, 2009

Diversity in Science Carnival - Black History Month

DNLee at Urban Science Adventures has started a new Carnival celebrating Diversity in Science. Since it's Black History Month, the goal is to celebrate black pioneers and innovators in STEM.

I really want to participate because, for selfish reasons as well as altruistic ones, I think it's very important to expose the diverse sources of innovation in our fields. Even if a field isn't very diverse (mine isn't), it's a great service to EXPOSE those who have made it, in order to inspire those below. (In case you haven't figured, I'm a big proponent of the Role Model Approach to achieving diversity in the sciences).

So, I went to Google and typed, "Black Computer Scientists". This is what I found:

Click me.

A page devoted to black computer scientists of the African Diaspora. For ALL of computer science. Can you believe this astonishing fact, that fewer than 0.25% of CS-ers are black? It's horrifying. I don't know how up to date the page is, but there are really not a lot of people on that list. I do know that I have met very very very few black CS-ers in my journey through graduate school. I may come across VERY FEW WOMEN, but I come across EVEN FEWER black people, and I think this is a crime. I can count the number of women, black people, and hispanic people to get a PhD in my area at my Uni. in the years I've been there on one hand. Oh wait, on 1 finger. Yeah. One. Measly. Fucking. Finger.

So, I want to do my part and tell the blogosphere about a black innovator in Computer Science.

Like everyone knows, I'm a Computer Scientist. This does not make me a computer expert, but I do keep up. So one of the coolest computers on the market today is the Sun Niagara. This thing is crazy. You can't buy one for yourself, it's meant for servers and not PCs, but it's one of the coolest pieces of hardware out there.

The Sun Niagara is the brainchild of Kunle Olukoton, a professor at Stanford University. He is one of the innovators of the Chip Multiprocessing Era. Remember when Intel stopped pushing Gigahertz and started pushing number of cores? That's when the real shift to chip multiprocessing began, and Dr. Olukoton was right there at the cutting edge. Starting from a research project at Stanford, he founded a company to build a server-class chip multiprocessing platform, which was later bought by Sun Microsystems. These days, the latest Niagara can run 64 threads of execution AT THE SAME TIME. That's crazy. That's awesome. That might not mean anything to you, but for a geek like me, that's just cool.

And that's all folks. I betcha didn't know that a black man was the driving force for one of the coolest pieces of computing hardware today. But now you do.


Mrs. Comet Hunter said...

That's very cool! I can't believe the 0.25% stat though - that is sooooo sad :(

Nicky said...

The really depressing thing, to me, is that Stanford CS is considered Super Diverse because they have one black professor (Kunle Olukotun) and one Hispanic professor. And three women. Out of ~60. Yep, that's what passes for diverse in CS.

PhizzleDizzle said...

Nicky - I hear you. Anything that's not quite 100% uniform is "diverse." It's pretty sad. Like how people say "wow, there are a lot of women here" when I go to a conference (of a few hundred people), and the women can't be counted on two hands. That's "a lot" of women.

Even worse, I've never been to a conference with more than...maybe three black people (out of a few hundred). It's just unbelievable. Sigh :(.

Drugmonkey said...

A great person to know about, thanks for posting this.

PhizzleDizzle said...

Wow, it's DrugMonkey! I am humbled. I'm glad you liked the post.

Rebecca said...

I did not know that about the Niagara. An awesome machine with an interesting backstory :)

And yeah, it's very sad what passes for diversity. I'm a computational scientist, and in the applied math/numerical analysis/computational science area there is a higher percentage of women than in most areas of computer science. Still, it's pretty sad that when I was a postdoc, I was the only woman in my department. After the postdoc, I moved to a different department that was more diverse -- about 20% women, and one African-American man!!!

PhizzleDizzle said...

Rebecca - thanks for your feedback! I just checked out your blog - another lady CS-er! Woooot! Hooray! :) I have a feeling you do a lot more math than I do though :).

DNLee said...

wow, those stats make the 3% of black phds in the natural sciences look like a big deal. Thanks for sharing. My knowledge of innovators in non-life science fields is weak. I'm loving all I'm learning - about the people and their work - amazing. It's a great lesson.
Thanks for visiting and submitting.

I'm curious, how did you learn about the carnival

PhizzleDizzle said...

DNLee, I read a few science blogs which referenced the carnival...I can't remember specifically who, but sciencewomen and drugmonkey come to mind...maybe a few more. I just felt I had to participate!

Villager said...

This is my first foray to your yard. DNLee shared the 411 on your blog. I've added it to the Black Blog Rankings that I publish each month.

Anyhow, this post on the dearth of brothers and sisters with PhDs in the computer science realm is sobering. We can do better...

peace, Villager

PhizzleDizzle said...

Hi Villager, welcome. I feel so bad about this, but as I wrote in an earlier comment, I am actually not black, I think there must have been some misunderstanding. I have previous posts which state that I am Asian. But my vehemence about wanting to participate in this carnival may have come from my feelings of solidarity with minority communities. When I was growing up, my dad said to me, "If it weren't for the fight of black people, I'd just be a chink right now." Now, in my field which is totally, largely white men, I feel even closer to my other minority brethren, and I think we'd do well mix up the face of Computer Science.