We had the good fortune of connecting with Jana Carpenter and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jana, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I have to say that both my mother and just existing in the South my whole life make a huge impact on how I carry myself today. There’s this expectation of charm and character and resilience that comes with growing up in the South that I always found fascinating. However, what growing up in the South really teaches you, is some of the rich and violent history of what it means to be Black in America. My mom, a single parent, working three or more jobs, always emphasized that I had to face the world head on and with my head held high in the many faces of adversity, which is an especially crucial lesson for black children. It was through my mom that I saw what it meant to believe in myself and to be proud of where I come from.
The culture birthed from major cities like Atlanta and Savannah make the South what it is, and its also what continues to feed my creativity and passion. Aside from the external avenues of culture that come from the South is the food. You can easily tell is someone has been in the South long enough if you ask them, “which brand makes the best sweet tea?” and “what’s your order at Waffle House?” These small moments are often the seed to bigger memories in our lives, and its what makes me who I am.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In my Bio-Analytical Chemistry PhD research, I’m currently looking into the metabolic profile of antibiotic susceptible and resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus. Antibiotic resistance is of growing concern around the world, and this kind of research could aid in unlocking information about certain biological pathways that fuel this resistance to therapeutic drugs. To achieve the greatest coverage of data, our lab employs Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS) to gather key features that may be of focus in our work. This type of work is something I’ve dreamed of doing since I started thinking about science as a career path. I could never stick to one science, it was always pharmacology or chemistry or biology, so I broadened my horizons and found research that catered to all of my interests!
Outside of my PhD research, I’m heavily involved in the Black Science Coalition and Institute (BSCI) as the Research and Development Officer. What this means is that I look for and develop new ideas for BSCI’s community outreach efforts and collaborations. The main goal of BSCI is to be a resource and communal space for those interested and currently working in STEM, so finding new ways to make that vision a success are crucial.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
ATL has such a rich culture to explore, so I would have to go about it by season. In the summertime I would start green, the Atlanta Botanical Garden is a great place to step out of reality. Then, I’d probably want to cool off with some amazing beer from Orpheus Brewing company. They have some of the best combination of gosé flavors in ATL. After beer flights, I usually want to look at art and if we didn’t have to wait in lines, the High Museum of Art would be one of the top picks. Art is one of those things that I’ve clung onto especially as a scientist. I find that sharing a moment of time with someone looking a work that someone created and, in some cases left for you to interpret is so captivating. So, after daydreaming in pastels, we’ll have to brave the line at SluttyVegan. With full bellies, it’s time to head to a concert at the Masquerade ending well past midnight. This leaves the last 2AM stop at Waffle House for the All Star Special with a side of cheese grits, of course! That probably sums up a pretty solid week for me.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have amazing friends and family that continue to believe in me each day. For instance, I’ve already mentioned my mom, Florence Carpenter, but she truly is the hardest working person I know. Her determination to be independent and provide for those she cares for is something to admire. Likewise, my older brother, Nikita K. Carpenter Jr., is such a positive influence in my life. He’s so humble and passionate, and he has always encouraged me to think of solutions more creatively.
I would also like to give a huge shoutout the Black Science Coalition and Institute (BSCI). In my journey towards pursuing a PhD in Chemistry, BSCI really gave me a way to find community with black and brown scientists in STEM. After attending a PWI during my undergraduate studies, it was nice to be able to connect and uplift with the multitude of scientists that look like me in STEM doing amazing things.
JASMS ACS Publications