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SIMPLY JESSICA: Knatokie Ford leverages entertainment to advance STEM classes

Knatokie Ford was in an accident when she was a child that left her partially blind in her right eye. She became curious about how her eyes worked.

In high school, she took AP Chemistry and AP Physics. She became engrossed in science with the help of great teachers.

“I did different internships that helped me,” Ford added. “I had wonderful supporters who helped nurture my interest in science.”

Ford’s interest in science led to her receiving a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in biological chemistry from Clark Atlanta University.

She completed her Ph.D in experimental pathology at Harvard University in the lab of Dr. Patricia D’Amore where she studied age-related macular degeneration.

The Ph.D was a milestone achievement for Ford. She was an active student at Harvard. She was involved in educational outreach, mentoring, motivational speaking and recruiting and student group leadership.

Ford is currently a media innovation fellow at the Simmons Foundation. She recently served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Obama administration.

In her role as senior policy advisor, Ford looked at how she could leverage storytelling to improve the way the public perceived science and technology careers as well as a tool to promote diversity.

Ford would scout to see what was happening in the media ecosystem. She oversaw the development of national initiatives to raise visibility and to improve the images of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and careers.

“I looked for opportunities to see how the White House could get people excited to be part of the solution,” she added.

Ford also served as a science and technology policy fellow at White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from 2012-14 with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, where she managed projects on education, technology and improved the nation’s health care system.

Ford hopes that she has been able to encourage children of color and girls to see themselves as future innovators of STEM.

“I want to see a movement that gets all hands on deck,” she added. “The current trend of not seeing girls and people of color going into the field needs to change. We are at the beginning stages to see a movement in entertainment media to make positive social change.”

Ford wants young people to see a problem as a way to think about science as a way to solve problems. She sees a need for a diverse prospective to come up with innovative solutions.

“I want kids to know that just because something seems hard doesn’t mean that they won’t get good at it,” she said. “You have to work hard at anything that is worth pursuing. You must have confidence and persevere in life in whatever you are pursuing.”

As a former senior policy advisor, she focused on entertainment media. She hopes in the future she will see women and children of color become innovators in the science space. Ford is convinced that science and mathematics is where the future jobs will be.

“We need to utilize all our available minds to help us,”Ford added. “The media has the ability to impact our attitude and behaviors. It’s a fulfilling experience to have an impact on kids.”

Be yourself! I’m Simply Jessica JcAden. You can reach me at jess.gosnell@gmail.com