Challenge. Change. Podcast
“With struggle, I have made it to the other side. My first message today is that GPA is not destiny.”
As an undergraduate student in one of Harvard College’s residential houses in the early 2000s, she met with David Fithian — now president of Clark — because she was struggling with her grades. Back then, he was resident dean of Harvard’s Adams House, overseeing the academic standing and personal well-being of hundreds of students, including Prescod-Weinstein.
“With struggle, I have made it to the other side,” she said. “My first message today is that GPA is not destiny,” she said before launching into a lecture that ranged from a deep dive into the cosmology of the universe to more pointed assessments of the racism and sexism she still sees today in scientific fields and the broader culture.
That “other side” includes Prescod-Weinstein’s promotion this summer to tenured associate professor of physics at the University of New Hampshire, where she also serves on the core faculty in women’s and gender studies. Her contributions to theoretical cosmology and particle physics — and her work around fighting racism and sexism in the sciences — have earned her much acclaim. Among other accolades, Nature declared her as “a force in physics”; the American Physical Society presented her with the Edward A. Bouchet Award; and Essence magazine named her one of “15 Black Women Who are Paving the Way in STEM and Breaking Barriers.”
Prescod-Weinstein currently is working on her second book, tentatively titled “The End of Space Time,” and has a third in mind; her first book, “The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, & Dreams Deferred,” published in 2021, has been called “a timely, necessary, stellar book — a game-changer.”
Prescod-Weinstein “describes her work as living at the intersection of particle physics,” Betsy Huang, associate provost and dean of the college, said in introductory remarks before the Presidential Lecture. “My most favorite description of her is that she is, in her own words, a griot of the universe, and she develops creative mathematical narratives that may just be our cosmic origin story.”
Earlier in the day, Huang and Esther Jones, associate provost and dean of the faculty, moderated Prescod-Weinstein’s intimate conversation with computer science and biology students. She dove deeper into the racism and sexism she encountered on her journey from growing up as the child of a single mother in working-class East Los Angeles to becoming a leading physicist entrenched in the latest theories of dark matter.
“I actually think the challenge right now is how do we hold space for those feelings of wonder and curiosity and creativity in the midst of all of these things that are happening to us.”
“I actually think the challenge right now is how do we hold space for those feelings of wonder and curiosity and creativity in the midst of all of these things that are happening to us,” Prescod-Weinstein said. “The universe is in fact bigger than those things. And part of what we are fighting for is to preserve our capacity to spend time thinking about that bigger universe. That’s part of the struggle, and that’s part of what we struggle for.”