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Milestones Awardee, Amanda Bryant-Friedrich, PhD, Is at the Height of her Career

By Asia Nail

Sojourner’s Truth Reporter


She is a Toledo treasure serving as associate professor of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry at the University of Toledo and presently as dean to the College of Graduate Studies. Amanda Bryant-Friedrich, PhD, was named the 2020 YWCA Milestones Honoree for her outstanding leadership qualities in the field of science.


“It was a huge surprise to me! I was both delighted and shocked as I had no idea I was being considered,” smiles Dr. Bryant-Friedrich during our chat.


The YWCA Milestones Award was established in 1996 to honor northwest Ohio women who, through their efforts and accomplishments, have opened doors for other women to achieve their potential. Honorees are recognized for their contributions in the following seven areas:  Arts, Business, Education, Government, Sciences, Social Services and Volunteerism.

Amanda Bryant-Friedrich, PhD


“I have worked very hard in science all of my career, and to be recognized for the work I do in my community, is huge to me.  I appreciate accolades from my professional peers, but this is different...this is at the heart of why I get up every day and do what I do.”


Dr. Amanda Bryant-Friedrich’s earliest memories of an interest in science began at home on her family farm.  “It was fascinating to watch my father prepare the chemicals he would use on our crops.  My mother could not help much, she was very ill when I was growing up. I remember wanting to create a new and better medication for her so she would get better faster.”


At the age of 22, Bryant-Friedrich graduated with honors from North Carolina Central University, receiving her bachelors in chemistry. She decided on Duke University for her graduate studies, later earning a master’s degree in the Department of Chemistry.


“Many things had happened in my academic career up to that point. I went to an HBCU (historically black colleges and universities), where I graduated with honors. Next, I attended Duke University and in contrast it was a very difficult experience.  I had one of those moments, like I’m sure many of our ancestors have had before me, when I realized I needed to continue my study in Europe.”


Historically, Europe has been where people of color go to free themselves of U.S. discriminatory attitudes and policies while evolving in their respective fields. When asked about the experience of studying abroad, Bryant-Friedrich states, “In Europe I had the freedom of not being a black person in America. Looking back on the experience it was in alignment with more freedom. In Germany my colleagues welcomed me and I was embraced in that environment.”


After meeting her husband during her graduate studies in Germany, she moved to Switzerland in pursuit of her postdoc education.  In 1993, Byrant-Friedrich began her doctoral research at Heidelberg University and completed her PhD in 1997, followed by postdoctoral training at the Universität Basel, Switzerland until 1999. From 2000-2007 she held the positions of assistant and associate professor at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan before moving locally to the University of Toledo.


In a society, fueled by technology and science, STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) education represents the future.  Among the number of black, white, Asian and Hispanic students, however, blacks represent the lowest percentage of students earning degrees in STEM majors. Unfortunately, many STEM majors of color don't stay the educational course like Bryant-Friedrich.


When asked why people of color (and women in particular) are underrepresented in STEM, and how to bridge the gaps, Bryant-Friedrich suggests, “In order for you to be able to dream to do something, you must first be aware that it exists.”


“It is very important to me that I live very publicly as a scientist. I want young women to see that they can do this kind of thing. I spend a lot of time at places like The Imagination Station doing experiments in front of young people so they can see that science is something they can do, too.”


In academic circles, Bryant-Friedrich goes the extra mile to encourage students based on their strengths. For example, when she sees a young African-American student who is really good at calculus, she says, “You’re great at calculus, have you ever considered majoring in civil engineering?”


“No one consistently has these types of conversations with black students.  I believe it’s because they don’t feel connected to the student on an individual level when they don’t share similar backgrounds.”


Despite the many forces at play stifling diversity in STEM fields, there are many ways to break the cycle.  One way, Bryant-Friedrich suggests, is to promote curiosity by helping children learn how to be critical thinkers at a young age.


“Our Science Center downtown is a great place to start. If you have small kids, take them to Imagination Station. They will get an early introduction to playing in an environment that is all based in science.”


Bryant-Friedrich is also an advocate for closing the mentoring gap, stating,

“My graduate students come from all over the world. I love mentoring them and seeing how their background and culture changes the way they look at science. I always say, winning the Nobel Prize is one thing, but creating scholars who can actually win the Nobel Prize is much more rewarding.”


Bryant-Friedrich adds she has had different mentors, advocates, champions and challengers for all areas of her life and is grateful to be honored this year at the Milestones Luncheon. 

“Many times we just don’t see enough of ourselves in underrepresented environments to dream about becoming like our role models. I hope someone sees themselves represented at this event.”


The 25th Annual Milestones Awards will take place at 11:30 a.m. on March 12, at the Seagate Center in downtown Toledo.  All proceeds from the luncheon will benefit more than 23,000 women and families who utilize the social service programs of the YWCA.  For more information and to purchase tickets to the luncheon, go to: the YWCA's website.



Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02/13/20 09:08:13 -0500.

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