Richard Gilliam, a 2015 NIEHS postbaccalaureate trainee, will celebrate the official launch of his new children’s book — Diversed In Stem: When We Believe, We Achieve — on April 14. The author aims to teach children from all backgrounds about careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
The book features four chapters of learning adventures for Gilliam’s fictional fifth-grade characters and their teacher. Illustrations show the children practicing various STEM careers as they each imagine future success. Family background is also explored for each of the children, and their personal challenges are turned into promising traits. The book is targeted for readers aged 6 to 12 years.
STEM for all
Gilliam noted that his slogan “When We Believe, We Achieve” teaches children that success begins with self-belief.
“Especially coming from where I come from, inner city Philadelphia, if you look at the statistics, the odds were never in my favor to be where I am in life right now, so I wanted to show children that anything is possible,” he said.
The teacher in the book encourages the children by helping them embrace their individual interests and talents.
“The book examines how some children might be looked down upon for certain qualities but then reverses that and turns those qualities into something that they can channel into a successful STEM career,” Gilliam explained.
Much of the book is based upon his own life experiences.
“Sometimes, it takes me longer to pick up on certain techniques, but I never give up, and in the time that it takes me to pick up on something, my creativity is activated,” he said.
Shaped by NIEHS
Gilliam said his time at NIEHS helped shape this book, which was based on an idea that had been brewing in his mind for several years.
For example, he worked with Tammy Collins, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Office of Fellows’ Career Development, to assess career outcomes of institute alumni. He documented where postdoctoral fellows landed and what jobs they had after leaving NIEHS. Collins said his work helped shape a career outcome taxonomy that her office still uses.
She was thrilled to hear about the focus of Gilliam’s book.
“The fact that he is encouraging people at a young age, when they are so impressionable, to explore the different kinds of STEM fields out there, and letting them know these careers are for everybody, is such an important message,” she said.
Gilliam graduated from Saint Augustine’s University in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. After completing his summer internship with Collins, he worked in the NIEHS Division of the National Toxicology Program with Jean Harry, Ph.D., a scientist in the division’s Mechanistic Toxicology Branch.
Today, Gilliam works as an automation engineer for eurofins, a global product testing company. In his free time, he volunteers as a mentor with a FIRST Robotics high school team in North Carolina.
Diversed In Stem, which Gilliam envisions becoming a series, is available for purchase on Amazon.
(Jennifer Harker, Ph.D., is a technical writer-editor in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)
Collins (left) is pictured here with Gilliam (right) at the NIEHS Summer Internship Program poster showcase, July 2015. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)