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Yearn For More: Roger Arliner Young

Hello everyone! I'm Tina and this is Women Weekly, where I post about one wonderful woman in the STEM field every Friday. This week, I looked into the life of a zoologist who pushed through all of life's obstacles to do science – Roger Arliner Young.

 

Roger Arliner Young was born in Clifton Forge, Virginia in 1899 into a poor family. Her mother was disabled and Roger took care of her for most of her life. The family soon moved to Pennsylvania, where Roger graduated from Burgettstown High School. In 1916, she began attending Howard University in Washington, D.C. to study music, but years later changed her field of interest to science.

Her grades weren't great but one of her professors, zoologist Ernest Everett Just noticed her potential. In 1923, they began working together after Roger had received her bachelor's degree. For more than a decade, she was an assistant professor at Howard College and helped with Just's research as well.

For her master's degree, Roger chose to study at the University of Chicago. While there, she was invited to join the scientific research society Sigma Xi, a huge honor for a master's student. Around this time, Roger put out her publication "On the excretory apparatus in Paramecium" in Science, a prestigious science magazine. She was the only author of the publication and it was an international success in the zoology community.

In 1926, Roger obtained her master's degree and began working with Just at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts during summers. They researched the fertilization process in marine organisms, as well as the hydration and dehydration process in living cells. During Just's work trips, Roger stood in for him as the

acting chair for the zoology department at Howard University.

In 1930, Roger began working towards her doctorate at the University of Chicago but failed her qualifying exams. This led her to leave the scientific community for some time but later she returned to both teaching and research.

In 1936, Roger and Just were confronted in regards to some romance rumors. Just betrayed her and ruined her reputation, which eventually led to her getting fired because she allegedly missed classes. She didn't give this setback too much thought and again started focusing on her doctorate, this time studying at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1940, Roger became the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate in zoology.

Roger began working as an assistant professor at North Carolina Central University, Shaw University, and later at many other universities throughout the US. In 1960, she finally became a Professor of Science at Jackson State University, Mississippi.

Roger Arliner Young made significant contributions to the field of zoology. As a poor black woman living in the US during the 20th century, her life was already difficult. On top of that, she also cared for her disabled mother while being disabled herself since she had damaged her eyesight while working with UV light during research. She also struggled with mental health problems, admitting herself to the Mississippi State Asylum a couple of years before she died in 1964.



 

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