Jewel Plummer Cobb (1924-2017)
Maplewood, New Jersey, USA
Digital Illustration, 24" x 32", 2022
Not only is Jewel Plummer Cobb a pioneering biologist, but also a leader for women and minorities looking to access equal education. Born into an intellectual family, Cobb was destined for the scientific field. Despite years of suffering from racial prejudice, Cobb earned a Bachelor of Art’s, Master’s degree, and eventually a Ph.D. from New York University in cell physiology. She was hired at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and NYU as a biology teacher, her first of seven university teaching jobs.
While at the NCI, Cobb researched infected melanoma cancer cells and the effects of chemotherapy drugs. She examined melanin (skin pigment) formed in vitro. Studying the suppressant methotrexate, she found that it was effective in the treatment of certain skin and lung cancers. This drug is still used today in chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer, lung cancer, leukemia, head and neck cancers, and some forms of lymphoma.
Cobb was dedicated to supporting women and people of color who wanted to enter the STEM field. While at Rutgers University she worked to attract more women into the sciences. She published papers on how the educational systems discouraged women from entering STEM and how it affected their pay and tenure positions. While at CSUF, she fought for state funding to construct new engineering and science buildings. She developed a program for minority students to be paired with tutors in mathematics to boost their achievement. The list of her accomplishments is lengthy, including receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993 by the National Academy of Science. Her bravery and dedication to the scientific field has encouraged and facilitated many women and minorities to science degrees.