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!’ ”.
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.
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.
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.
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.