The Michigan Engineer News Center

Profiles in STEM

For February 2021, three Michigan Engineering students shared their perspectives and stories.| Short Read

Sydney Jones, biomedical engineering

“I’m from South side of Chicago and a lot of people around me were not awarded the opportunity that I was. When I was in high school, when I’d tell people I’m interested in engineering, it would be like a big deal. Like “why are you doing that? That’s crazy.” And I don’t want that stigma to be there. ‘Cause there’s a lot of people around me that were good at math and science, but they were hesitant to pursue STEM and engineering in particular because of the way it’s perceived by Black people to be something that’s super hard and like it’s just the white man’s job. I want that image to change. So that’s why I’m here.”

“Honestly, I think it just comes from feeling like sometimes other people, White people, are doing better than me in classes. And it could be because socially it’s easier for them to find help in certain instances where I sometimes feel alone. So I think that can make me feel like the people around me are doing better. ‘Cause if they are struggling, it seems like they find an easier way to get out of the struggle than I am. But I have to remind myself that people aren’t smarter than me. We all deserve to be here.”

Margaret Perr’tiangha, mechanical engineering

“It was very strange for me because when I grew up in Cameroon, they teach us about European history and American history and they teach us about slavery. But none of that really hit me until I was in a country where slavery was still like very much a thing — where its effects on people were still very much a thing. So all of that was just really shocking. And I liked that. I kind of got to learn about it on like my entry into the country. I guess it was kind of nice, although very aggravating when I was learning about it. But now six and a half years later, I don’t want to say I’m jaded, but I’m not shocked by racism. And when things like George Floyd happened, I was like, “Oh wow. Yet another black men being killed for really no reason.” Like it’s stuff that I see all the time and now I’m just not accepting of it, but it’s not as shocking to me as it was before”

“It doesn’t really bother me that people just changed their profile pictures. Like that’s not really my issue. I just wish that they would actually care about the topics and not just be talking about them because it’s trendy to do so. I wish that they would be more open about their experiences with stuff like this. It seemed like they were posting it like this has been their lives and they’ve always advocated for these causes, but I feel like it would be helpful for people to say, “Hey, there was a time when I didn’t really care, but this is really important.” And just because it doesn’t affect you doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk about it. And just cause you didn’t care about it before doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care about it now. So I hope that more people become more aligned with the cause just personally and they tell their stories with it too, because it can educate more people.”

Jordan Wallace, mechanical engineering

“In light of recent events and with the start of 2021, I want to be active in every space I occupy. Currently, that’s within the National Society Of Black Engineers and the College of Engineering. After graduation it will be with BPx, my future employer. I hope that my actions pave the way for young black kids and that I make meaningful contributions to the collective efforts towards inclusion.”

“When I was 11, my dad, brother and I were driving home from our family’s annual Memorial Day barbeque dancing bumping music when we were surrounded by flashing lights, sirens and a fleet of 7 police cars less than a mile from our house. From the back seat, the first thing I saw was a bright white flashlight followed by a red beam pointed at my father’s head from an officer’s gun just inches away from him. Since my grandfather was a policeman and had luckily given my dad “the talk” Black people have to give to their children, my father knew the drill and was able to de-escalate the situation. Unfortunately, even though he moved slow, was patient and explained in detail his every move, he and my 13 year old brother were  handcuffed, leaving me alone, scared and crying in the back seat afraid of what was to happen next. After what seemed like a lifetime, I was approached by an officer and my young appearance and emotional state made her realize a mistake had been made. We later found out that the cause was from a report made by a motorist about 3 black males with a handgun throwing up gang signs and yelling. This is how two young Black boys and their father, dancing and listening to music in the car, had been perceived. I don’t think my story is unique by any means. I just know as I reflect back that if my dad wasn’t someone who knew what to do, I might not have a dad today and maybe even I wouldn’t be here. That’s a scary thought.”

Portrait of Zach Robertson


Zach Robertson
News and Communications Assistant

Michigan Engineering

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The outside of the Ford Robotics building

U-Michigan, Ford open world-class robotics complex

The facility will accelerate the future of advanced and more equitable robotics and mobility | Medium Read