We are a vibrant community of women in STEM. Despite the stories you may here, we are here and you can find the community you will need to support you along your journey.

Who is Kilan Ashad-Bishop?

I am a molecular biologist and Oakland native that came to Miami seven years ago by way of Baltimore, Maryland. My passion for science stems from the early loss of my grandfather from cardiovascular complications. To do my part in improving treatments for chronic disease, I paired my natural affinity to math and science with my passion for service and became a biomedical scientist. My technical training is in a subtype of breast cancer that disproportionately affects young and African American women. Beyond the bench, I am passionate about using my unique talents to serve the various communities of which I am a part. I regularly volunteer my time with K-12 STEM outreach efforts, specifically those that target girls and youth of color who are historically underrepresented in STEM. I also serve as a low income community advocate on the City of Miami Sea Level Rise Committee, where I apply science as a process to advance equitable resilience policies. I am driven, passionate, and service-oriented. I have been privileged during my personal and professional scientific journey to have a support network that helped me realize my dreams and I now wish to destruct barriers that discourage or prevent others from attaining similar goals.

Educational Background

PhD, Cancer Biology

Special Awards

I have been recognized as a National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow (2019); New Leaders Council Fellow (2016); Legacy Magazine, 40 Under 40 (2016); and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Defining Pearl (2015).

How did you choose to pursue this field?

My interest in science began early with a natural inclination to math and science, but my scientific career was born out of a passion for service. I lost my grandfather to heart disease as a child, and wanted to conduct research to spare another family that loss. During my undergraduate and graduate studies, in biology and cancer biology respectively, I conducted cancer research and was simultaneously fascinated and appalled by the knowledge that certain populations bear a disproportionate burden from cancer and other chronic disease. This is partially due to a lack of trust between certain communities and the scientific research/healthcare enterprise. During the course of my studies, I intentionally built connections with the community around me to become a resource for reliable and relatable scientific information and do my small part in rebuilding that trust. I also mentored younger undergraduate and graduate level women who rotated through the lab.

Who was your inspiration or role model that guided you to this field?

My mother was my inspiration to pursue higher education. She also inspired me to merge my professional path and passion for service.

Did you always have the desire to work in this field? If not, what was your intended field? Why did you change careers?

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a scientist.

What do you love most about your job?

My current role allows me to be at the forefront of advances in biomedical science. I get to see the science underlying innovation and that is by far the best part.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your job or career?

The most rewarding aspect of my career as a scientist has been solving problems and answering questions. I went into science with a pure intention of helping people, and I find it rewarding when progress is made towards answers that may eventually help people.

What things would you change about your job?

I would like to interact more with the local community, but I do that through my out-of-office activities.

What has been the most difficult or disappointing aspect of your job?

In my academic and volunteer settings during my journey to becoming a scientist, I noticed that I was often the only when it came to both gender and race. My STEM outreach efforts were born from existing at the intersection of wanting to improve human health and wanting to affect the historic underrepresentation of women and people of color in science. I was lucky enough to have a family that supported me in my dreams, despite not having scientific backgrounds themselves, but many interested girls and youth of color do not have that privilege. Three years ago, I began volunteering consistently with K-12 STEM outreach efforts to do my small part in diversifying the stereotypical image of a scientist and spurring the interest of girls and youth of color in science and engineering projects. In this capacity, I have developed science activities and interacted with hundreds of middle school girls during “mentoring moments” where we work through challenges associated with technical projects. During these moments, when I see the STEM-related glimmer in the eyes of these young women, I feel more satisfaction than during all of my years of research. I have been extremely privileged during my scientific journey, and I volunteer to extend that same opportunity to the next generation of young, female scientists.

How have you combated the stigma of being a “woman of color” in STEM?

I don’t concern myself with it. I have always acknowledged how my experience in STEM has been affected by my identity, but I know that the contributions of Black women has laid many a foundation for STEM field of study, so my presence is earned and valuable.

What tips would you offer for anyone thinking about entering into your profession?

It is all about experience. If you think you might be interested in something, talk to someone in that field and try and find an opportunity to gain experience in that field. It was only through hands-on lab work that the biology concepts that I had been studying for years finally came to life.

What advice would you give your younger self about your career journey as a “woman of color” working in a predominantly white, male-dominated field?

“Bring your full self to the table. If anyone is committed to misunderstanding you, let them do so, but that is their business. Be excellent and be every part of you.” I skipped the first grade, took a gifted/honors curriculum, graduated from high school at 16 years old, and graduated with my Bachelor’s degree at 20 years old. Despite that, there are still people who have thought, throughout my journey, that my presence was unwarranted. You stay focused on your gifts and your calling.

Can you provide some words of wisdom to young ladies thinking about entering a STEM field as a career choice?

We are a vibrant community of women in STEM. Despite the stories you may here, we are here and you can find the community you will need to support you along your journey.

What is your favorite Quote? How do you apply this to your life?

“Hold fast to dreams”. It is an excerpt from a Langston Hughes poem. My mother was an English major, and so she would always find a gorgeous way to say no when I asked for something. Despite her usage, this particular quote is one that I held on to and continue to live by because my dreams have always motivated me forward despite the circumstances.

What are your future goals related to your career?

I am committed to a few things going forward. It means a lot to me to maintain an active role in broadening participation in STEM work. Further than that, my interest is in science policy and evidence based policy beyond that.

How has your family influenced your journey and provide support?

I was born to a Doctor of Education and community activist, and therefore taught from an early age to opt for success. In my hometown of Oakland, California, there are many distractions from that path, which I believe was the driving force behind one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. One day before I got out of the car to go to my grandmother’s house, my mother stopped me and said, “What do you want to be Kilan? What do you want to do?” There in the car, she challenged me to give my life a direction. I believe my exact response was, “I am going to save the world… with drugs!” After a moment’s thought I added, “But only the good kind of drugs!” I made the decision that day that I wanted to be a scientist. Despite not always understanding my interests or studies, my family has only ever been supportive. When I was a child, that support came in the form of scientific trinkets to peak my interest and expose me to different topics. As an adult, that support has largely shifted to moral and socio-emotional support, and sometimes financial (lol), as I spent a decade in undergrad and graduate school.

What are some interesting facts about yourself that you would like to share?

Outside of science, I am a health and holistic wellness enthusiast with a passion for the outdoors and the environment.

Follow Kilan:

IG/TWITTER: @kilanbishop

Website: kilanbishop.com

We hope you enjoyed learning about our latest “STEMsation”, please comment about how her experiences have inspired you, how your experiences can inspire others and nominate our next “STEMsation to spotlight their amazing accomplishments.

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