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Spotlight

Favour Nerrise

Electrical Engineering
Story originally published on May 2022
I didn’t always have a word for it, but engineering has been part of my life for a long time.

I was that kid in the family who just knew how to make things work. I joined the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) — a student-run organization with over 20,000 members whose mission is to support the academic and career growth of Black engineers in the U.S. and abroad — when I was 9 years old and I’m now the national chairperson for the organization. 

My research focus at Stanford is experimental neuroengineering. That means I’m developing tools, methodologies, and algorithms that can help explain different parts of the brain. The ultimate goal of my work is to translate that knowledge about the inner workings of the human brain into innovative new medical technology. Currently, I’m studying memory. How is memory represented in the brain? How does it change over time? What weakens or strengthens it? These are the kinds of questions my research hopes to answer and I believe those answers hold a lot of possibilities.

Growing up as a member of NSBE, I was raised surrounded by robotics competitions and conversations about engineering. I know it’s not this way for everyone and I’m familiar with the obstacles facing Black people interested in engineering. That’s why recruitment is a big part of my focus as the current national chairperson. I love to come up with ideas for the kinds of things that first brought me to engineering like competitions, conferences, mentorship opportunities, and professional development workshops. My biggest long-term project as chairperson of NSBE is enacting a strategic plan I supported the development of called Game Change 2025. This initiative aims to get 10,000 Black engineers to graduate annually from higher education institutions by 2025. 

I want to fix problems; that’s what engineers do. There have been many opportunity gaps for Black people interested in engineering. To combat that, NSBE has a goal to capture interest from as early as kindergarten, because if you’re interested in engineering as a Black person in this country, you need support starting at an early age. Exposure is another big challenge. Engineering wasn’t a word or option I knew of as a child. As a result, for a long time, I thought I wanted to be a brain surgeon. This was the only way I knew of that would allow me to help people with neurological issues. After discovering neuroengineering, an entirely new world of possibilities opened up for me professionally, academically, and personally. Now that I’ve found a passion in neuroengineering, and a pathway that feels right for me, I want to help others find theirs too. With Game Change 2025, our goal is to find and fill those gaps in opportunity and exposure, and even if students don’t end up pursuing engineering formally, at least they will have been exposed to it as an option.

Stanford and NSBE have had a very long history of partnership. We need community partners like that. My call to action for anyone who wants to support our mission is: Tap in. If you have a voice or a platform, please amplify us.

 

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