Cassandra Extavour, PhD
DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGIST, HARVARD UNIVERSITY
Use the links below to explore Dr. Extavour’s science and story. Learn more about how to get the most of out these resources here.
“i've been surprised by how many scientists think that being a scientist somehow protects them from all of the biases that come with being a human.”
What does a young girl who spent most of her youth dancing, singing, and baking decide to do when she grows up? Well, in some cases, she becomes a dancing, singing, baking Biologist.
Dr. Cassandra Extavour didn’t always want to be a scientist. Microscopes and white boards seemed to have little to do with the vibrant world she grew up in. Raised in the Caribbean community of Toronto, her childhood was filled with family, music, food, and social activism.
A born-performer, it wasn’t until high school that other parts of her personality demanded attention. She excelled in math and science, leading her to consider options outside of her comfort zone.
But realizing what you want doesn't mean it's going to be easy.
She worked full-time to pay her way through school, oscillating between satiating her curiosities and her passion for performance. When she stumbled across developmental genetics, the question of how we came to exist as we do became a compelling force. Of course, as a trailblazing queer woman of color in STEM, the challenges of finding elusive answers to scientific questions was - at times - eclipsed by the challenges of an institution that reflects the long-held biases of its society.
Today, she is living proof that we don’t have to choose between the parts of ourselves that matter. She is a proud and celebrated scientist, an inspiring performer, and an advocate for dismantling the barriers that she overcame.
PhD in Statistics from University of Padua
Florence Nightingale David Award
National Academy of Medicine Member
Expertise: Biostatistics; Public Health
Title: Co-Director, Harvard Data Science Initiative
Institution: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
What is evolutionary biology? Why does is matter to your students?
These are some of the core questions that drive Dr. Extavour’s work. is a geneticist who studies evolutionary and developmental genetics. She uses a number of model organisms in her work, including crickets. Her work has helped us better understand how natural selection works. including is known for demonstrating that germ cells engage in cell to cell competition before becoming a gamete, which indicates that natural selection can affect and change genetic material before adult sex reproduction takes place. She was also the Director of EDEN (the Evo-Devo-Eco Network), a National Science Foundation-funded research collaborative that encouraged scientists working on organisms other than the standard lab model organisms to share protocols and techniques
Lesson Plans & Classroom Resources
Want to bring a little of their science into your classroom? Here are some great resources to get you started!
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