From Mother to Professor in Just Three Weeks

The Texas Story Project.

In the summer of 2013, while eight months pregnant, her family made the big move to Huntsville, TX. Dr. Jasmine Drake had her daughter in July 2013, and she started her academic teaching career at Sam Houston State University (SHSU) only three weeks later. “Most people thought I was insane for starting this work in such a short period of time, but I was, both, excited and determined to start this new chapter in my life. I know I would not have been able to do this without the tremendous support and care that my mother-in-law provided for my newborn,” said Dr. Drake to express her gratitude.

Dr. Jasmine M. Drake, a native from inner-city Baton Rouge, Louisiana, grew up in the 1980s in a middle-class income home with her parents, Shermaine Thomas and Kemp Thomas III, and her two younger sisters, Angela Price and Dr. Kandace Hurst. Early on in her youth, she had been a witness to the devastating effects that crime, drugs and lack of opportunity can have on the inner-city and its members, along with the “true-grit” and resilience that the residents of these communities can show. This exposure would fuel her desire to help at risk-youth in her future endeavors. Despite the obstacles that inner-city life can have, Drake’s mother was a firm believer in exposing her children to accelerated programs for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). To kickstart her doctoral career, Dr. Drake received an NRC Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland where she conducted neutron scattering research for two years. At the end of those two years, Drake remembered feeling the stress of a tough job market, so she aggressively began applying for jobs inside and outside of her discipline of inorganic chemistry. It was in 2009, that Dr. Drake would receive the job opportunity of a lifetime, to work as a Forensic Chemist for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Dallas, Texas; kickstarting her Texas Story, while simultaneously changing the trajectory of her personal and professional life. 

During her time in Dallas working for the DEA, she met and married her husband and native Texan, Anthony Drake, which caused her priorities to shift. Drake decided that she wanted to focus on building her family and pursuing her passion of promoting STEM education along with mentoring at-risk youth, who are from vulnerable communities or underrepresented minorities in STEM. Dr. Drake received an opportunity for a tenure-track position in the Department of Forensic Science at Sam Houston State University (SHSU), in Huntsville, Texas. In the summer of 2013, while eight months pregnant, her family made the big move to Huntsville from Dallas. Drake remembered being worried about moving to a city with a lack of close family nearby, so her mother-in-law, Emma Wright Taylor, volunteered to move nearby to help with her late stages of pregnancy. Dr. Drake had her daughter in July 2013, and she started her academic career at SHSU only three weeks later. Her mother-in-law had agreed to stay as long as they needed her, but unfortunately, she passed away when their daughter was just three months old. “This was probably one of the lowest points in my journey in Texas, but I was very grateful for her support and that we were able to share her last moments on earth with her,” expressed Drake. 

In 2016, she was offered the unique opportunity to hold a tenure-track position at Texas Southern University, a Historically Black University (HBCU) located in Houston, Texas. This new opportunity has allowed Drake to fuel her life-long passion to give back to an HBCU while reaching and training underrepresented minorities in STEM and forensic science disciplines. Later that year, she was appointed by the Governor to the Texas Forensic Science Commission (TFSC), and was re-appointed in 2019, currently one of only two African American women to serve since the organization’s establishment. Drake also received the “500 Women Scientists Fellowship for the Future” award in 2019, allowing her to offer a hands-on STEM and forensic science training program for middle school girls in the Houston Metropolitan area.

Drake credits part of her success to the state of Texas and all it has to offer, “Although I’ve experienced some challenges during my journey in Texas, my life and that of my family has been enriched tremendously by the people, culture, southern hospitality, and opportunities for growth, here in the Great State of Texas.” 

Cheyenne Cannon, formerly Cheyenne Cosgrave, is a third-year Forensic Biology major at St. Mary’s University. Cheyenne grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, for the first 20 years of her life, and graduated from Governor Mifflin Senior High School in 2017. She attended West Chester University in Pennsylvania as a forensic chemistry and toxicological sciences major for two years, before getting married in 2019 to her husband, Shane Cannon, and moving to Texas to finish her academic career at St. Mary’s University. Cheyenne is studying to pursue a career on a forensics team. 

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