Video: INSPIRE: Meet the 21-year-old who wants to be the first black woman to walk on Mars
Anicca Harriot: A Look Back
Anicca Harriot, a first year PhD student in the Graduate Program in Life Sciences Molecular Biology and Biochemistry program and Meyerhoff Graduate Fellows Program, currently works in Dr. Chris Ward’s research lab studying muscle and bone mechanotransduction.
Harriot’s journey to University of Maryland, Baltimore’s School of Medicine began at an early age when she told her parents that she wanted to be both an astronaut and a cardiovascular surgeon. Her father’s response, that “maybe she could study the heart in space,” had a lasting impression on Harriot through her adolescence. With supportive parents, encouraging her to follow her passion, Harriot did “a lot of things to position [herself] to have this career.”
Harriot attended Roberto Clemente Middle School and Poolesville High School, both Montgomery County schools with STEM magnet programs. Harriot credits both her biology and physics teachers for helping pave the way for her inspiration and success. The summer of her junior year of high school, her physics teacher drove her to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, where within an hour, Harriot had landed herself an internship.
While pursuing her undergraduate degree in biophysics at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Harriot interned at both NASA’s Langley Research Center and Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, VA, working in the area of lung trauma. At NASA-Langley, Harriot worked in a robotics lab where she met two very important role models, Margot Shetterly, the author of “Hidden Figures,” and Katherine Johnson, a mathematician working at NASA-Langley and also one of the featured women in “Hidden Figures.”
In 2016, Harriot was invited to attend the State of NASA Address as a social media press correspondent with NASA Social. After the State of NASA, Harriot wrote a blog on Tumblr titled “The State of our NASA is Strong” that was later shared on We Report Space. Thanks to her blog that went viral, NASA invited her back for the naming ceremony for the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Center.
Today, in addition to working toward her doctorate degree full time, Harriot volunteers for a live web-series, Vanguard: Conversations with Women in Color in STEM, whose mission is to “increase the voices of women and non-binary people in STEM.” Harriot also states that the “idea is to embrace your identity as a woman of color.” Harriot’s specific role is to highlight these people and their work via social media. She most recently presented VanguardSTEM’s work at the Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference.
Harriot also volunteers with #PopScope, an urban movement with volunteers in six U.S. cities, that “pops up” with telescopes in various public spaces to bring people together to look at the night sky. Baltimore #Popscope is partnered with eight organizations, including Enoch Pratt Free Library.
At just 21 years old, Harriot has accomplished many feats, bringing her closer to her goal of one day being the first black woman to walk on Mars, and as she jokingly pointed out, “I’m going to be the first astronaut without a driver’s license!”
Alexandra Squires, MBA
Program Specialist, Graduate Program in Life Sciences