IOWA Magazine | 12-11-2020

Researcher Creates List of Inspiring Black Scientists

Iowa postdoctoral research fellow Antentor O. Hinton Jr. promotes diversity in STEM and mentors the next generation of scientists.

Antentor Hinton's passion for science first grew in his grandparents' garden in North Carolina.

When Hinton was in third grade, he and his grandparents planted and grew pumpkins, butternut squash, watermelon, sunflowers, green beans, and tomatoes. Hinton visited the garden nearly every day until he left for college to see the flowers transform into fruits or vegetables.

From gardening, Hinton cultivated an interest in studying botany and biology as an undergraduate at Winston-Salem State University and later earned a PhD from Baylor College of Medicine in integrative molecular and biomedical sciences. He says he may never have become a scientist "if not for my grandparents inspiring me to take the time out of my day to think about a plant and how it grows."

Hinton, a postdoctoral research fellow in the University of Iowa Department of Internal Medicine, seeks to inspire the next generation of young Black students to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). He recently worked with Cell Press, a biomedical journal publisher, to create a list that recognizes 1,000 Black scientists who are leaders in their fields (see sidebar). Cell Press also honored 100 Latinx scientists during Hispanic Heritage Month in September. In his introduction to the series, Hinton wrote, "Our hope is that this resource will have a significant and long-lasting effect on all members of the scientific community and continue to emphasize the need for diversity in the academy."

Hinton learned recently that he was named to another prestigious list created by Kai Wright, a podcast host and editor at New York Public Radio. Wright's blacklist100 was founded to amplify emerging voices within the Black community representing bold, innovative, and culture-making thought leadership. "I was flabbergasted when I found out," Hinton says about his inclusion.

At Iowa, Hinton studies diabetes in hopes of identifying possible new drug treatments. In addition to his full-time lab work, Hinton has worked for three years as an academic and career development instructor in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine's Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. His work recruiting and training students from diverse backgrounds has earned him the 2020 Diversity Catalyst Award and two awards for outstanding mentorship, while his presentations on diversity have taken him to conferences and universities all over the country. "We're trying to create a change of direction toward what scientists look like and what people think of the norm of when they look at a scientist," says Hinton, who will become an assistant professor of molecular physiology and biophysics at Vanderbilt University this fall.

Hinton has a unique approach when discussing potential STEM fields with young Black students. Rather than begin with what inspired him to become a scientist, he starts by learning what inspires them. "Is it basketball? Is it watching TV? Is it singing?" he says. "I ask people: Have they ever thought about the math or the physics behind the shot? What do they think about in the context of communicating with other people? Have they ever thought about the acoustics behind singing? I connect on that level."

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E. Dale Abel, chair and department executive officer of the Department of Internal Medicine and director of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center at Iowa

François M. Abboud (61R), founding director of the François M. Abboud Cardiovascular Research Center and associate vice president for research at Iowa

Renata Pereira Alambert, research assistant professor for the Division of Endocrinology in the Department of Internal Medicine

Calvin Carter (14PhD), American Diabetes Association postdoctoral fellow, UI postdoctoral fellow, and founder, president, and CEO of Geminii Health

Ayotunde Dokun, director of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism in the Department of Internal Medicine

Andrea Marshall, postdoctoral research fellow and Future Leaders in Endocrinology fellow

Rhonda Souvenir, associate faculty for the Division of Endocrinology in the Department of Internal Medicine

View Hinton's list of 100 Inspiring Black Scientists in America and 100 More Inspiring Black Scientists in America.

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