The First Black Deaf Woman to Earn a Ph.D. in Biochemistry

Amie Fornah Sankoh is believed to be the first deaf, Black woman to receive a doctorate in any STEM discipline in the United States, and possibly the world. She recently earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Tennessee. Her research focused on the effects of hormones on plant-pathogen interactions.

A native of Sierra Leone in Africa, Dr. Sankoh became deaf at the age of three. She was sent to live with a family friend in the United States at the age of 12. She struggled in school until she was able to master American sign language.

After graduating from high school, she took a job as a laboratory technician for Dow Chemical Company. She then earned an associate degree in laboratory sciences from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from RIT.

Dr. Fornah is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Danforth Plant Science Center, a nonprofit research institution in Missouri.

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