Elizabeth Eckford. The photograph of her walking through a mob of hateful white people trying to keep her out of their school comes to mind. My struggle in the academy does not compare to that of Elizabeth Eckford, but this image evokes the common narrative of black students enduring hostility to enter a white academic space. That “colored woman living in a white world”  reflects back to me my experience as a black woman in the white-dominated, hostile, engineering academic space where my legitimacy as a scientist is continually challenged.
My first encounter with the politics of research involved the politics of the “valid” research question. Surviving in my PhD program became dependent upon me defining research questions that satisfied my desire to do environmental equity- and justice-focused research while being deemed “scholarly-enough” (read: novel-, rigorous-, and technical-enough) for environmental engineering by my professors.