Before Margaret Ellen Mayo Tolbert, Ph.D., broke multiple gender and racial barriers in the field of science, she first had to pull herself out of poverty.
For Tolbert, author of “Resilience in the Face of Adversity,” her upbringing was less than ideal. She was born in segregated Virginia and endured a tumultuous childhood. She was an orphan at an early age and had to care for her siblings.
Through hard work and dedication, she became a leader in her field and shattered multiple glass ceilings during her career working for the U.S. Department of Energy and BP North America. Tolbert was the second African-American to graduate from Brown University with a doctorate in biochemistry, one of six African Americans to serve as a senior advisor at the National Science Foundation and the first African-American to serve in directorial roles at both the New Brunswick and Argonne National Laboratories.
“Despite this rough beginning, I found the strength of will and perseverance not only to survive my home life and take care of my siblings, but also to excel in my chosen career,” Tolbert said.
By sharing her story, Tolbert hopes to be an inspiration for others and encourage people to choose careers in the fields of math and science as well as promote the benefits of STEM.
“I want to inspire initiative in individuals who want something in life but are afraid to take steps to rally against adversity and lift themselves out of poverty, despair and ignorance,” Tolbert said.
About the Author:
Margaret Ellen Mayo Tolbert is a retired scientist and former senior advisor at the National Science Foundation. She holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Brown University, a Master of Science in Analytical Chemistry from Wayne State University and a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Tuskegee University. She resides in Springfield, Va.
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