Skip to main content
Black in STEM


Derk Simpson Jr.

Derk Simpson Jr.


Major and Degree: Science, B.S.

Graduation Year: 2016

Current Position: Senior Scientist, L’Oreal Sustainability Research and Innovation


Connect: LinkedIn | Email


What motivates you to do/pursue science and/or medicine?

My desire to pursue science is a result of both my inherent curiosity and the environment I grew up in. I’ve always loved asking why, as it has always sparked my interest in how the world functions. Growing up, I have seen firsthand the positive influence and impact my mother's work as a nurse makes in the lives of others. Because of this, even as a young child I understood that I wanted to change the world and use science as a vehicle to help find new ways to address problems. Throughout my academic career, I have had numerous teachers who have had impactful ways of teaching science that fueled my curiosity. Specifically, my decision to pursue science as a career was largely influenced by an after-school criminalistics course in high school. This course ultimately led me to major in science at Penn State and subsequently obtain a master’s degree in forensic science.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is a dedicated time to honor the extraordinary achievements that Black people have made throughout the world, not just in America. Black History Month is a great time to learn about the current contributors who are actively pushing the needle for a more equitable future for Black people. It’s also an opportunity to look back and discover what strategies have worked in the past to effect change, from the days when Black people were perceived as three-fifths of a person, to the first Black president and female vice president, to even the mass introduction of "Black-owned" businesses. Black History Month is a global opportunity to honor achievements, reflect on the past, and consider ways in which we can help bring about change for a more equitable future.


Anything else you would like to share?

I had some of the best and worst days of my life at Penn State, including the first time I cast a ballot for President Obama's reelection at the age of 18, but also losing family members. I owe it to my parents and the many instructors and staff members at Penn State who have supported me in overcoming the many obstacles I've faced.

I am grateful to Drs. Jenifer Smith, Ann Marie Daniel, Ann Marie Hunt, Reena Roy, and Dara Sanoubane for their support, challenge, wisdom, and excitement throughout my time at Penn State.

I would especially like to thank my parents for their unwavering support and for fostering an environment that allowed me to achieve.

We Are!