#PGHSTEM Spotlight: Dr. Andre Samuel

PhD, educator, community builder, STEM professional

Andre Samuel

Dr. Andre Samuel / Photo by Willy James

A scientist and researcher, Dr. Andre Samuel has brought his passion for the life sciences out of academia and into the lives of young people. As the President and CEO of the Citizen Science Lab, Dr. Samuel is creating fun engaging and hands on lab experiences as part of his lifelong dedication to open up new pathways to interest in STEM, especially for young people who might not see a future for themselves in the sciences.

We sat down with Andre to learn how STEM has shaped his life as a scientist, educator, and mentor.

This interview has been edited for clarity and concision.


Willy James: What was your STEM “a ha moment”?

Dr. Andre Samuel: My STEM “a ha” moment came when I was at Duquesne University as a graduate student. And I noticed that, during the summer, the lab sat open. And Duquesne University is in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh, right by the Hill District. I thought it was a great opportunity to take these underutilized labs and use them to expose youth in the immediate area to what’s possible on Duquesne’s campus and the biology laboratory.

Willy James: What has a career in STEM meant to you?

Dr. Andre Samuel: A career in STEM has given me a purpose and I think that purpose is to not only understand how the world works, but also to be able to take this understanding to the community and get more people excited about what we’re learning in the world of science and stem. And what’s possible.

“The Armenians are here.” – front desk receptionist welcoming international visitors to the Citizen Science Lab

Willy James: How does STEM show up in your everyday life?

Dr. Andre Samuel: STEM shows up in our everyday life no matter where you look. From waking up in the morning and seeing the sunrise and hearing the birds chirp, from your daily commute whether it’s by car, plane, train. You know, we’re surrounded by life. We’re surrounded by these wonderful structures that we have created. We’re surrounded by these wonderful inventions that have changed our lives and made things easier. All of that is possible through STEM and our understanding of STEM.

Willy James: What’s one thing you wish more people knew about STEM?

Dr. Andre Samuel: That it’s actually really, really fun. It’s not this sort of bogged down, boring subject that we tend to be confronted with when we’re studying it in our textbooks and learning it in school. When you get to actually do it, when you get to actually build something, when you get to actually manipulate genes, when you get to actually work with microorganisms; it becomes a lot more fun than just sitting there and reading about it.

Willy James: What’s one STEM experience/resource/book/program/event you’d recommend?

Dr. Andre Samuel: Wow, that’s a good question. Besides coming to the Citizen Science Lab? [laughs] If you’re looking for a really, really interesting read and a read that is fun but then very science based, I would recommend “Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite: The Science of Monsters”. That is a book that is all about the science behind monsters. It explains on a scientific level the origins of monsters such as Frankenstein, zombies, vampires, and so on. And how the science – that wasn’t known at the time – led to this sort of folklore and legends of monsters. It’s a really cool book.


Citizen Science Lab at Magee Rec Center / Photo by Christopher Sprowls

Dr. Samuel at work / Photo by Christopher Sprowls

Learn more about Andre and the Citizen Science Lab at thecitizensciencelab.org

This post is part of the #PghSTEM Spotlight, a project to lift up professionals who represent a more diverse and inclusive future for STEM careers.

Follow the links below to check out other spotlights in the collection.

Published June 25, 2019

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