Black History Month: Doing the Work

Black History Month is a time to reflect on African Americans’ achievements and struggles. It’s also a time to highlight individuals who, today, are doing the work to make society more just and more inclusive.

This work is happening across Tech’s campus, by students and researchers who focus on race-related or antiracist technology and research, and by those who, simply by existing and thriving in spaces where they are underrepresented, are helping to bring about change.

Doing the Work introduces you to a few of the people who are making a difference in the Tech community and beyond.

Manu Platt

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering • College of Engineering

While earning his Ph.D., Manu Platt was shocked to learn that children with sickle cell disease are at increased risk of stroke, with 11% having a stroke by age 16 and at the greatest risk between ages 2 and 5. Learning that this was happening with a disease that mostly affected Black people in the U.S. — one in 400 African Americans has sickle cell disease — inspired Platt to help find solutions.

Through research, he hopes to identify new targets that are elevated due to the inflammation and damage caused by sickle cell disease — tools that can be used to prevent damage to the cerebral vessels where strokes could occur. He and Professor Ed Botchwey are also studying these mechanisms in the bones, as people with sickle cell disease are often subject to hip replacement surgeries by their late teens.

Platt believes all people living with sickle cell disease need access to better healthcare and options to improve their quality and length of life.

In addition to his research, Platt runs Project ENGAGES, which brings in students from Atlanta public high schools and pays them to work in Georgia Tech labs while training them to do cutting-edge research.

He also runs GT-ESTEEMED, an NIH funded program for first- and second-year students to prepare them to pursue doctorates in STEM fields. Both programs seek to change the face of what scientists and engineers look like and to open these career paths to everyone.

With the help of Lakeita Servance, his partner with both programs, Platt’s goal is to inspire a whole new generation of young Black and brown scientists and engineers who do not yet know the power and potential they have.

“It’s important for everyone to remember that diversity work is not charity work,” he says. “There are incredible solutions hiding out in people who were just not given the opportunity to be at the table to answer those questions.”

Read more stories that celebrate Black History Month.

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Writer: Evan Atkinson
Editor: Stacy Braukman
Photography: Allison Carter
Graphic Design: Evan Atkinson