By AJ Horch
Favour Nerrise wanted to be a brain surgeon when she was 10 but was conflicted. “Brain surgery looks cool. But how can we make surgical tools better?” she recalls thinking.
With the help of her mother, Nerrise searched online for robotics tutorials, training videos, and local competitions. Initially, she found VEX Robotics and First LEGO League, two organizations that promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. Nerrise also came across the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), a nonprofit with the mission of increasing the number of Black engineers.
Now 22, Nerrise is an electrical engineering Ph.D. student at Stanford University, currently researching tools, models and methodologies that can help medical professionals better understand how the brain functions. She also has risen from NSBE local chapter president to her current role as National Chairperson as she leads its effort to increase diversity in the engineering field.
Only 5% of developers, engineers and programmers are Black, according to data from /dev/color, a non-profit that helps companies find Black tech talent. Nerrise says she is the only Black woman in her 160-person electrical engineering Ph.D. cohort. But she and NSBE are hoping to increase these numbers through Game Change 2025, a strategic plan that Nerrise implemented to see 10,000 Black engineers graduate annually by 2025.