Jedidah Isler

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Jedidah C. Isler

CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materNorfolk State University (B.S.)
Fisk University (M.A.)
Yale University (M.S.,Ph.D.)
Known forYale University's first African-American woman to earn a PhD in Astrophysics
AwardsKavli Foundation Fellowship (2016), Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship (2012), National Science Foundation (2007)
Scientific career
InstitutionsVanderbilt University, Syracuse University, Dartmouth College
ThesisIn Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lion: Probing the Disk-Jet Connection in Fermi Gamma-Ray Bright Blazars

Jedidah C. Isler is an American astrophysicist and educator. She has written studies on blazars (supermassive black holes)[1] and examines the jet streams emanating from them.[2] She is currently an Assistant professor of Astrophysics at Dartmouth College.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Isler was raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia[4] and has a sister.[1] When she was 12 years old, she discovered the scientific field of astronomy and began to study for a professional career in science.[5]

Isler's father left the family shortly before she left for college, sparking financial turmoil that threatened to cut her studies short.[1] She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's of science in physics at Norfolk State University's Dozoretz National Institute for Mathematics and Applied Sciences (DNIMAS), "a program aimed at cultivating minority scientists who want to complete graduate-level work."[4] From there, she became one of the first three student members of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master's-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program, a program designed to increase the number of women and under-represented minorities with advanced STEM degrees.[6] Under the tutelage of Keivan Stassun, she earned a master's of art degree in physics from Fisk University.

At Yale University, she earned a Master's of Science in physics, and subsequently began her doctoral studies in astrophysics, researching blazars. She became the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Yale.[5][7][8] In an NPR interview, she recalled an exchange with one of her classmates during her first year at Yale. "So there are plates everywhere," she recalls. "And all of a sudden, [a white male student] in my class hands me a pile of his dirty plates...and says, 'Here, now go and do what you're really here to do.'"[6] In 2014, Isler published her doctoral dissertation, In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lion: Probing the Disk-Jet Connection in Fermi Gamma-Ray Bright Blazars,[9] which earned the Roger Doxsey Dissertation Prize from the American Astronomical Society.[10]


Isler is the recipient of numerous prestigious fellowships.

Jedidah Isler at the second White House Astronomy night with Mythbusters hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.

After achieving her PhD, Isler went on to conduct her research through a number of postdoctoral research appointments. From 2013 to 2015, Isler "completed a two-year Chancellor’s Faculty Fellowship at Syracuse University".[4] In 2014, Isler was also awarded the Future Faculty Leaders Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard University's Center for Astrophysics.[11] In 2015, Isler won a National Science Foundation (NSF) Astronomy & Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowship, conducting her research[12] in the Physics and Astronomy Department at Vanderbilt University.

In 2015, Isler was awarded a TED Fellowship.[13] She is a 2016 National Geographic Emerging Explorer,[14] and became a TED Senior Fellow in 2017.[15]

In 2018, Isler became an Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth College.[3]

Blazar research[edit]

Isler's work seeks "... to research blazars and better understand the jets they shoot out nearly at the speed of light".[4] Isler states that her research

focuses on understanding how Nature does particle acceleration. I use blazars –supermassive black holes at the centers of massive galaxies that “spin up” jets of particles moving at nearly the speed of light – as my laboratory. By obtaining observations across the electromagnetic spectrum: from radio, optical and all the way through to gamma-rays, I piece together how and why these black holes are able to create such efficient particle accelerators and, by extension, understand the Universe a tiny bit better. I’m also very interested in and active about creating more equitable STEM spaces for scholars of color broadly, and particularly, for women of color.[3]

External video
"How I fell in love with quasars, blazars and our incredible universe", TED talk, March 2015

STEM advocacy[edit]

External video
"The untapped genius that could change science for the better", TED talk, August 2015

In 2015, Isler founded Vanguard: Conversations with Women of Color in STEM (VanguardSTEM),[16] "a live, monthly web-series featuring a rotating panel of women of color in STEM discussing a wide variety of topics including their research interests, wisdom, advice, tips, tricks and commentary on current events". VanguardSTEM is a flagship initiative of Isler's nonprofit organization, The STEM en Route to Change Foundation (The SeRCH Foundation, Inc.), whose mission is "to use science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as a tool for social justice".[17]

In 2015, Isler delivered a TED Talk on issues of intersectionality, specifically the marginalization of Black women in STEM industries and education, noting that:

According to Dr. Claudia J. Alexander's archive of African-American women in physics, only 18 black women in the United States had ever earned a Ph.D. in a physics-related discipline, and that the first black woman to graduate with a Ph.D. in an astronomy-related field did so just one year before my birth."[18]

Isler wrote a New York Times op-ed on "The ‘Benefits’ of Black Physics Students" in 2015.[19]


Isler has appeared in two episodes of the documentary television series How the Universe Works, describing astronomical phenomena and explaining astrophysics theories.[20] She also has appeared in the television series Genius by Stephen Hawking,[21] and National Geographic television series Mars.

Honors and awards[edit]

  • Kavli Fellow Frontiers of Science Symposium, November 2016
  • Curator & Host TED Conference, February 2016
  • Host TED@IBM, October 2015
  • TED Fellow, 2015
  • American Astronomical Society Roger Doxsey Dissertation Prize, January 2014
  • Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, August 2012
  • Edward Bouchet Graduate Honor Society, March 2012
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, June 2007
  • NASA-Harriett G. Jenkins Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, June 2007


  1. ^ a b c Mayol, Taylor (2016-09-09). "The Astrophysicist at the Cutting Edge of Black Holes". Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  2. ^ "Jedidah Isler First African-American Woman To Receive A Yale PhD In Astrophysics". Science World Report. 2015-10-18. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  3. ^ a b c "Jedidah C. Isler | Department of Physics and Astronomy". Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  4. ^ a b c d Cook Jenkins, Elizabeth (2016-05-09). "Rising Star". Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 2017-11-02.
  5. ^ a b "Meet Dr Jedidah Isler: The First Black Woman to Graduate from Yale with a PhD in Astrophysics". 2015-09-25. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  6. ^ a b "A Graduate Program Works To Diversify The Science World". Code Switch. NPR. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  7. ^ "Lessons Learned". Vanderbilt Magazine. Vanderbilt University. May 12, 2016. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  8. ^ "About". Jedidah Isler. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  9. ^ Isler, Jedidah C. (1 January 2014). In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lion: Probing the Disk-Jet Connection in Fermi Gamma-ray Bright Blazars (Thesis). Yale University. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  10. ^ "Rodger Doxsey Travel Prize". American Astronomical Society. Retrieved 2017-03-28.
  11. ^ "Jedidah Isler, Ph.D. | Brief CV". Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  12. ^ "Rising Star". Atavist. 2016-05-09. Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  13. ^ "Meet the 2015 class of TED Fellows and Senior Fellows". TED Blog. 2014-12-17. Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  14. ^ Society, National Geographic. "Learn more about Jedidah Isler". Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  15. ^ "Meet the 2017 class of TED Fellows and Senior Fellows". TED Blog. 2017-01-10. Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  16. ^ "About Us". VanguardSTEM. Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  17. ^ "The SeRCH Foundation". VanguardSTEM. Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  18. ^ Isler, Jedidah (2015). "The untapped genius that could change science for the better". Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  19. ^ Isler, Jedidah. "The 'Benefits' of Black Physics Students". The New York Times.
  20. ^ "How the Universe Works". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  21. ^ "Genius by Stephen Hawking". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 2, 2017.

External links[edit]