By Kendall Patterson
Anyone can be successful and make a difference. In fact, even a young African American male from a small town, can grow up, be successful and also make a difference in the world.
Derek Platt, Ph.D. candidate of molecular microbiology and microbial pathogenesis at Washington University in St. Louis, from the small town of Luray, Tenn., is evidence of this as he was honored as a “2020 Forbes 30 Under 30” recipient in the Science category. He was honored with this award as Forbes states “his first project [which] was focused on the then obscure Zika virus. When the recent global outbreak of Zika occurred, Platt ended up in contact with research teams all over the world, and the results of his work are being used for diagnosis and treatment of the disease.”
Platt, a Chester County High School graduate was always successful in academics. He was better known for his football abilities though which earned him a full athletic scholarship to the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), Tennessee State University.
Then, with acquiring an academic scholarship during a program called academic bootcamp, he quit football after about a year and a half in order to focus more on his studies of cell and molecular biology.
There were a lot of people that were excited for him to continue down that sports route, but those who were supportive of his scientific endeavors of making a difference in the medical field mean a lot to him.
“Having, … parents, siblings and other family members and a few teachers who were always supportive of my interest in science was very helpful,” he said.
“I’m really excited and proud of him and hope he continues to strive,” his mom Elaine Platt said.
“He always had the drive to want to excel and this [to be in the medical field] is something he has wanted to do for a long time,” his father Jerome Platt said. “He’s always been an inquisitive person.”
He also dedicates it to his “team” that worked on the Zika virus with him. He said science is very much like sports in regards to achievements being a team effort.
“I’m just very grateful. I’m just very honored,” he said about earning the award.
Platt does not really care for the spotlight and recognition the award gives him. However, the impact his recognition can have on other young black students is what he cares about.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t know any black scientists. I didn’t know any black physicians. I didn’t know these were careers you could have,” Platt said. “Letting other kids know that there are more options, and that it’s possible and realistic, and you can thrive, and letting them know that they’re just as intelligent as these kids growing up in the big cities. That’s what I get excited about in regards to the recognition. I can be that person for the people I didn’t have when I was that age.”