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Career Ladder

Career Ladder: Sibrina Collins

This inorganic chemist uses her diverse experiences to make science engaging for students

by Ariana Remmel
October 27, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 42


Early life

Hooked on science

Sibrina Collins was born and raised in Detroit. She doesn’t remember any specific desire to be a scientist when she was young, but her family tells stories about how she loved playing with a cousin’s microscope set. While completing an associate’s degree at Highland Park Community College, Collins took a chemistry class and was entranced by stoichiometry. “I was hooked,” she says. “And I thought to myself, ‘If this is all there is to chemistry, I’ll just be a chemist!’ ”.


Setting the course

A photo of Sibrina Collins with glassware in a chemistry lab.
Credit: Walter P. Reuther Library/Wayne State University
Sibrina Collins graduated with a degree in chemistry from Wayne State University in 1994.

Collins earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Wayne State University before pursuing a graduate degree in inorganic chemistry at the Ohio State University. Collins aspired to become a chemistry professor. “Particularly, I wanted to teach at a historically Black college or university,” or HBCU, she says. After finishing her PhD, Collins started a postdoc at a lab focused on cardiovascular disease at Louisiana State University.


Life beyond the bench

As a postdoc, Collins found a chemistry career book published by the American Chemical Society that “opened my eyes to all of these different things that you can do with a degree in chemistry,” she recalls. After spending a year as an editor for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Collins began teaching chemistry at Claflin University, an HBCU. Though teaching at an HBCU had been Collins’s dream, her passion for diversifying science eventually took her in a different direction. “I told myself if an opportunity was available where I could focus on diversity and inclusion efforts full-time, I wanted to try that,” she says. And so Collins jumped at the chance to become the director for graduate diversity recruiting in the sciences at the University of Washington.


Rolling with the punches

A photo of Sibrina Collins teaching students with a periodic table in the background.
Credit: Ryan Donnell Photography
Sibrina Collins enjoyed finding creative ways to teach chemistry in the classroom at the College of Wooster.

After 2 years at UW, Collins realized she missed the classroom. She moved to the College of Wooster, where she worked closely with undergraduates. “That really started my thinking about delivering content a little bit differently in the classroom,” Collins says. Despite her successes, she was denied tenure. “What I learned is that you cannot run from who you are and what your passions are,” Collins says. After that, she spent a year as the director of education at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History developing interactive programming for K–12 students.

A photo of Sibrina Collins smiling.
Credit: Noah Stephens Photography
Sibrina Collins is now the executive director at the Marburger STEM Center.


Landing on her feet

Collins is thriving in her current role as the executive director of the Marburger STEM Center at Lawrence Technological University. She continues to draw on her diverse experiences to help students find success. Making science accessible for the next generation requires a new approach, she says. “That means connecting with students in the classroom using their own experiences, such as pop culture, movies, and music,” she says.

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