Meet Karsh STEM Scholar Naomi Rankin

A native of the Southwest, Computer Science Sophomore Naomi Rankin always appreciated living in Albuquerque, New Mexico from her early years. She cherishes the unique experiences she had in Albuquerque, such as the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta “that everyone skips school for” and snowboarding in the mountains with her family.

In addition to her love of the great outdoors, Rankin has loved math and science from early childhood. She even loved receiving extra math homework. It was in elementary school that Rankin began taking STEM classes. From this young age Rankin began to realize she was different from her peers, being the only student of color in her STEM classes. She longed for more diversity in her surroundings. When she was in middle school, Rankin decided she would eventually need to move on to a place with a “stronger black presence”, as her environment made her feel uncomfortable in her own skin. Born into a family of HBCU alumni, Rankin was made familiar with the HBCU experience through her parents and extended family. Rankin knew she wanted the HBCU experience.

During her freshman year in high school, Rankin began her college search to pursue her research interest in epidemiology, which is the study of the distribution and control of disease in human populations. She believed Howard University was the optimal choice for her to pursue her research interest. The “Rankin Chapel” was also quite captivating. Rankin was determined to attend an out-of-state school and “go big”, despite the discouragement from one of her high school teachers. Rankin knew she would disprove her teacher’s racially biased assumption that students of color did not possess equal potential.

Although “still fascinated by the path of infectious diseases”, Rankin chose to become a math major with computer science and biology minors. (She did always love the extra math homework.) Her goal is to “make mathematical and computational models of the paths diseases take to infect people” and effectively use data mining and analytics to gather data on infectious diseases.

Rankin is passionate about “helping others succeed and ensuring that everyone has access to the same opportunities”. She is always looking to help encourage younger black students to reach their highest potential. “They just need to be given the opportunity to succeed,” she adds. Rankin accomplishes this through her work as a DMV NSBE, Jr. mentor. She is excited to see what careers her mentees choose to pursue.

What’s next for our Karsh STEM Scholar?

Rankin has many aspirations for her future work: “I want to create models for infectious diseases and increase vaccine awareness to hopefully minimize the spread and disastrous effects of these diseases. I also want to develop STEM programs for underserved communities to provide them with equal opportunity.”

About the Karsh STEM Scholar Program: Formerly the Bison STEM Scholar Program, the Karsh STEM Scholar Program is funded by a generous donation from Martha and Bruce Karsh. Read more. . . .

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