Who is Professor T.K. the Chemist?


Allow me to reintroduce myself. My name is Professor Tabelech "T.K. the Chemist" Shipp. My name is pronounced Tab-ba-lee. I have been a chemist and educator for over 25 years but it doesn't seem like it's been that long! I have a confession to make though as I introduce myself to you........



You wouldn't believe it, but I didn't like science until my junior year of high school when I was in my chemistry class enjoying the lessons that my teacher taught us daily. Coupled with the fact that Dr. Mae C. Jemison became the first African American woman to enter space, those two combinations triggered something inside of me. I wanted to become the next Mae C. Jemison as a Chemical Engineer. I went to North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC and began my freshmen year as a chemical engineering major. I quickly learned during my first semester that chemical engineering was not for me. The next semester, I switched over to majoring in chemistry and I haven't looked back since!


If we go back to my formative years, I was 10 years old when my father brought me my first science kit. I didn't know what to do with it at the time. I had access to these small chemical vials but I did not know what to do with them. It also came with a microscope so I was able to observe these little microorganisms of dirt, grass, water droplets and things of that sort but I still could not figure out what to do with these chemicals. Although I didn't understand what I was reading with the booklet that came with the kit, I did understand how to use some of the components of the microscope. Over 30 years later, I still have access to my first microscope.


After I graduated from A&T, I waited 10 years before I earned my Master's degree in Life Science with dual concentrations in biology and chemistry, from the University of Maryland at College Park. My thesis was on the effects of Vitamin D and the human body. I discovered that this research would later come back in the form of what we see today: the conversations we have on what melanin is, which is the chemical makeup of our cells that enrich the basis of our skin tone, fruits and vegetables and more. It is activated through sunlight. It is a molecule of carbon.