When Carl Reid was around eight years old, his mother, who worked at a hospital in Brooklyn, NY, began taking her young son with her to work on weekends. At the hospital, he witnessed a flurry of medical activity and saw men and women in white lab coats responding to a variety of needs. In a sense, sitting in that hospital was where Carl developed an early interest in medicine and science. “So I would go to the hospital with my mother and sit around and see people in white lab coats. I said, ‘This is interesting.’” As a child, Carl was always curious and tended to ask “why,” which, as he observed, “sort of fit in with the whole scientific approach.”
In high school, Carl volunteered in the emergency room of the same hospital he sat in as a boy. He admits that his initial motivation to volunteer was because it was summer and the emergency room “had air conditioning and free lunch.” But when he ended up in the trauma unit of the emergency room, where he actually assisted doctors and nurses, he felt that perhaps a career in medicine was for him. That idea would eventually give way to a career as a research scientist.
Today, Carl, 47, is the head of the Learning Lab and Science Education for Vertex Pharmaceuticals in Boston. Vertex Pharmaceuticals, according to information found on its website, was founded in 1989 in Cambridge, MA and “is a global biotechnology company that aims to discover, develop, and commercialize innovative new medicines so people with serious diseases can lead better lives.” He is also a faculty member in Roxbury Community College’s STEM Division, where he has taught Biology and Micro-Biology for the past nine years.
As head of the Learning Lab and Science Education, Carl oversees one of Vertex’s many collaborations. “I work very closely with the Boston Public Schools to enhance the science education that the high schools are delivering,” he explained. Carl added that the “Two flagship schools we work closely with are Boston Green Academy and Excel High School.” A main goal of the collaboration, he said, “is really around enhancing science education for the students and the teachers. Some of that involves working closely with high school students in a summer research internship program, working with Boston Green Academy and Excel science teachers at the Vertex lab, and developing lab activities and curriculum that is aligned with what teachers are teaching and which mirrors the science that Vertex does.”
Carl also conducts a teacher training fellowship summer program that brings Boston Public School teachers into the Vertex lab. The teachers go to Vertex for a week or two and work with Carl and other vertex scientists “to do hands-on cutting-edge research science.” After completing the program the teachers “can go back to their schools better equipped to do modern science.”
Carl, who lives with his wife in Mattapan, MA, has been doing science research for more than 20 years. He earned a PhD in Microbiology and Molecular Biology from Tufts University School of Medicine.
And he loves working at Roxbury Community College. “Roxbury Community College is near and dear to me,” he said. His tenure at RCC began one day when he was driving home from work. He decided to stop by the College’s STEM office and see if there was an opening for an instructor. There was, and after talking with the department head, Carl was hired to teach biology beginning the following week.
“I care about my students. I want them to walk away with skills they are going to need to compete and to survive. I teach the curriculum, but I also encourage presentation skills, critical thinking, following protocol, and communication.”
For the past five years or so, Carl has also sat on the Science Advisory Board at RCC.
Years ago, a mentor, the same man who encouraged him to pursue a PhD, told Carl to “make sure that you give back to society.” It was a message that Carl took firmly to heart. He has taught in Boston Public Schools, and continues to volunteer for a number of educational organizations that help young people challenged by school achieve an education.
Carl Reid believes that students of color should be encouraged to enter careers in the sciences. But that is not enough. “Students of color need sustained mentorship from an early age,” he said. “We need to make sure the quality of education begins from the early years on – good teaching by people who care.”