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Topics: African Americans, Diversity in Science, Microbiology, Nanotechnology, Women in Science
Nanowerk: Nanotechnology and microbiology
January 1, 1930 - November 12, 2015
Dr. Jessie Isabelle Price was a microbiologist best known for developing vaccines for common avian diseases.
Born January 1, 1930, Dr. Price was raised by her single mother who encouraged her children to work hard in school. And that advice paid off when Dr. Price graduated from her predominately white school and was accepted into Cornell University.
But just make sure she was extra ready for college, Dr. Price moved with her mother to Ithaca, New York to take advanced classes in math and English for a year. Fortunately, she didn’t have to worry about paying tuition since her New York residency qualified her for waived tuition fees.
Too bad it didn’t work that way at Cornell.
Dr. Price wanted to be a physician, but couldn’t because of the cost. Instead, she earned a Bachelor of Science in in microbiology from the College of Agriculture in 1953.
Her mentor, Dorsey Buner, suggested she take on post-grad studies, but once again, a lack of sufficient funds cut off her access.
To get around this, Dr. Price worked as a laboratory tech at the Poultry Disease Research Farm in the Veterinary College at Cornell to save post-grad money.
She eventually gained research assistant support from 1956 to 1959 and earned a Masters in veterinary bacteriology, pathology, and parasitology in 1958. Then, she went on to earn her doctorate in 1959 under the supervision of Bruner.
Her dissertation was the start of her path to creating a vaccine. She isolated and reproduced the bacterium, Pasteurella anatipestifer, in white pekin (“Long Island”) ducklings infected with a disease that was a major killer in duck farms.
Dr. Price joined the Cornell Duck Research Laboratory, and worked there from 1959 to 1977 and taught at Long Island University, where she became an adjunct professor.
In 1964, Ebony magazine featured Dr. Price and her work in an extensive photo-essay describing and showing her work on vaccine development, in the Duck Research Laboratory and on the farms.
She was awarded a National Science Foundation travel grant to present her findings at the International Congress for Microbiology in Moscow in 1966.
Darq Side Nerdettes - Black Women in STEAM: Dr. Jessie Isabelle Price