MU assistant professor of psychological sciences recognized in list of 100 most inspiring Black scientists in America

Booker joins Black scientists from all over the country in CrossTalk’s list to spread work and talent of minorities in science.

For Jordan Booker, MU assistant professor of psychological sciences, Feb. 3, was a day unlike any other. It would end up being the day the popular science journal CrossTalk published its list of “100 Most Inspiring Black Scientists in America”, and he was on it.

“This was a blog post from one of the larger journal groups out there,” he said. “It wasn’t something I was totally aware of until some other colleagues had passed it on to my desk.”

Though Booker may have played the humble card when asked about his mention on this list, his colleagues will be the first to admit that his naming on the list was well deserved. They said it is always nice to get recognition, which can often be far and few between projects.

“I think that Dr. Booker is one of a number of faculty that is really exceptional, and we’re very fortunate to have him,” Jamie Arndt, chair of the Department of Psychological Sciences, said. “I think one of the things we look for and take pride in is other people recognizing the excellence of our faculty, and Dr. Booker has a lot to offer.”

Booker has been at MU for two years now and has dedicated himself and his work to answering questions about concepts like emotional competence and identity development. His recent work revolves around conducting multi-phase studies of mother-adolescent reminiscing and emerging adult reminiscing. For example, how the relationship between a mother and her child may seem one way on the outside, but is really another way when explored deeper.

“We’re working with early teens and moms, just getting some different insights about how young folks make sense of their lives,” Booker said. “Things like how they talk about their lives with parents, how [moms are] doing that in some really neat ways compared to when they were kids, and how moms continue to be a really important source of feedback and insight for their young folks.”

The root for Booker’s research comes from a seed planted much deeper than the pure study of psychology itself. For Booker, it is all about identity and how people choose to frame such a vital part of themselves.

“I am broadly interested in what might be the strengths in people’s lives,” he said. “The areas that really build them up and give them fulfillment, purpose and meaning, and I am also broadly interested in how people work with life stories.”

Booker always knew he would be a scientist, but had no idea which kind. A student at Virginia Tech, he was not sure what he wanted to do with his life. Like many of the subjects he spends his time researching, he too was searching for his own identity.

“I took psychology, took bio, chemistry and all sorts of great stuff,” he said. “I was originally thinking something along the lines of med school and psychiatry. I am not good with chemistry, and I’m not great with physics, so that wasn’t going to really work out. I really didn’t come to grips with that until my junior year, so I was kind of floundering for a bit then.”

However, after one of his colleagues presented Booker with an array of options to explore, he discovered psychology after getting in the lab and finding his passion, which is something that Arndt believes makes Booker such an “inspiring” scientist.

“I think the passion that he brings to what he studies [is what makes him so inspiring].” Arndt said. “There are so many interesting issues and questions that psychological science is positioned to inform, and what is most refreshing about Jordan is the passion that he brings to what he studies.”

Booker’s passion for his work is only rivaled by his passion for teaching, which may sound cliché, but it is easy to feel the authentic desire he has for his students to succeed. Even in light of this honor he received, he was quick to point out what being labeled as inspirational meant for him.

“I want to make sure that I am trying to contribute in a way that is going to be supportive of students that are rising scholars in their own rights, trying to set up a good foundation for them going forward and making sure that I’m a good colleague for others,” he said.

Edited by Alex Fulton | afulton@themaneater.com

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