Photography by: Vanessa Leroy


Sheena’s Vasquez is a current PhD candidate in the Department of Biology at MIT. Her current projects revolve around structurally characterizing proteins involved in the cytosolic iron-sulfur cluster assembly pathway – critical to understanding central biosynthesis processes of life – using X-ray crystallography, cryogenic-electron microscopy, and additional advanced biophysical techniques.

Vanessa Leroy, Portrait of Sheena Vasquez, 2021. Digital Photograph. ©Poetry of Science. All rights reserved.


What is important for people to know?
That I’m human.
That I’m becoming more transparent.
An x-ray
Makes clear what resides in the body.
It is a question
That opens an answer. It is an order
Of understanding.
Beneath a microscope, among
The most beautiful things
You can see: Yellow protein crystal.
How it spikes and turns,
Spirals like a curly girl’s hair.
I work in pursuit
Of evidence suggesting X.
The music of data.
The feeling of it. Being
A scientist
Is 90% Failure. Is Trial.
Is Error. Is
The remarkable 10%.
My life has been
A mirror. A confrontation
With the Unknown.
A growing proof
Of what is Known.
- Danielle Legros Georges

This poem was written after two interviews with Sheena Vasquez, scientist and biology doctoral candidate, MIT.

Poetry of Science

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The Project: Scientists of color and local poets of color are collaborating to create poetry based on the work, motivations, and history of the scientists. We are working with fine art photographer Vanessa Leroy, to create portraits of each scientist for public display alongside their associated poetry. Selected poets and scientists will be published in a dedicated issue of an award-winning literary journal. Our Mission: The Poetry of Science counters the negative associations handed down by systemic racism by creating new and positive associations between people of color (POC), the arts, the sciences, how nature is perceived, and what it means to generate knowledge. In this context, POC offer new ways to understand and create novel realities to resist systems of oppression.

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