University Of Tennessee: Brilliant African Is First Deaf Black Woman To Earn A STEM Doctorate In The US

University Of Tennessee: Brilliant African Is First Deaf Black Woman To Earn A STEM Doctorate In The US

  • Amie Fornah Sankoh was born with no hearing impairment but three years later she became deaf
  • She moved to the US when she was 12 with the aim of getting cured of her hearing challenge
  • She was not cured of her deafness but she excelled in her education, currently becoming the first deaf black woman to earn a STEM doctorate in the US

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Amie Fornah Sankoh has become the first deaf Black woman to receive a Scientific, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) doctorate degree in the United States of America.

She graduated on May 20, with a PhD from the University of Tennessee (UT) Knoxville’s Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology.

Amie was born in Sierra Leone with no hearing defect. Three years later she became deaf. Due to her hearing impairment, she did not wo well in her elementary school in Sierra Leone. This compelled Amie’s father to send her to his friend in the US for a possible cure.

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Amie Fornah Sankoh is a PhD holder in Chemistry
When Amie Fornah Sankoh got to the US, she joined the deaf community where she learnt American Sign Language Photo credit: @UTKnoxville and Patrick Bowey
Source: UGC

Education in America

She relocated to America to live with her father’s best friend who adopted her. However, the doctors in the US could not heal her, so Amie joined the deaf community where she learnt American Sign Language (ASL).

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Amie still struggled at school in the US because she could not understand what her teachers or classmates were saying. Maths was the one subject in which she excelled.

She explained that she loved Mathematics because it was visual. Even though she did not understand when something was said, she could follow the formulas and follow the steps.

As she went on Amie fell in love with more complex maths, which led her to chemistry.

She first earned an associate degree in laboratory sciences from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and continued to earn a bachelor’s in biochemistry there.

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She got a job in a lab after college graduation. At the job, she participated in research, which opened her mind to the possibility of a PhD. Her PhD research focused on the effects of hormones on plant-pathogen interactions.

At the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Amie’s main challenge was scientific communication. She said there is always some form of communication ongoing in the labs. However, traditional sign language does not include specific scientific signs. She, therefore, relied on facial expressions and lip reading to communicate with others. It meant that she was greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic since people wore masks often. However, Amie’s coworkers wore transparent masks, and they made it a point to use written communication.

Amie defended her PhD thesis in front of 150 friends, family members and colleagues. She received significant independent research support as a graduate student and is the author of four scientific publications so far.

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Lady becomes first Black person to earn doctorate degree in anthropology from university in US

Amie is not the person to be the first black person to attain a feat in education in 2023. Tina Lasisi, a brilliant lady also celebrated her feat of graduating with a doctoral degree from Pennsylvania State University in the United States.

In a Twitter post, Tina Lasisi (@TinaLasisi) said her name has been engraved in the university by becoming the first Black student to receive a PhD in Anthropology from Penn State.

In her post, Tina added a photo of herself in her academic getup.

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