Carolyn Branch Brooks (born July 8, 1946) is an American microbiologist known for her research in immunology, nutrition, and crop productivity.
Early life and education
Brooks was born July 8, 1946 in Richmond, Virginia to Shirley Booker Branch, an antique store owner, and Charles Walker Branch, a truck driver. Her grandparents and her older sister also helped raise her. She attended high school on the north side of Richmond. As a young student she attended a special summer school for African American science students held at Virginia Union University in Richmond. Here she was inspired by the work of a guest speaker's work in medical microbiology. Along with the support of parents, Brooks had many great teachers who encouraged her to pursue her interests in science. After being offered scholarships to six different universities, she chose to attend Tuskegee University in Alabama to study microbiology. At the end of her second year of study she married Henry Brooks, an education student at Tuskegee University. During her undergraduate career she had her first two children, both boys. She graduated in 1968 then went on to get a master's degree from Tuskegee. She had her next two children, both girls during this time.
Brooks went on to do research at the Veteran's Administration Hospital before working on her Ph.D. She received her doctoral degree from Ohio State University in 1977. Her dissertation research focused on how T-cells destroy microbes. She then went on to study nutritional needs of the elderly at Kentucky State University. Through her research she discovered a connection between trace amounts of minerals in a patient's hair and diet, thereby enabling the recognition of some medical problems caused by poor diet. In 1981 Dr. Brooks accepted a research and mentoring position at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) in Princess Anne, Maryland. After 13 years at UMES she became the Dean of the School of Agriculture and Natural Sciences and became the 1890 Research Director. In 1997 she became the Executive Director to the President and Chief of Staff. Dr. Brooks' research at UMES focused on agricultural productivity. This includes increasing plant resistance to predators through multiple methods (both selective breeding and genetic engineering), the effects of various agricultural practices (e.g. the use of poultry litter, calf weaning, composting...), and relationships with microbes. Brooks' microbial work focused broadly on symbiosis including the relationship between nitrogen-fixing bacteria and the legume family and other specific interactions between microbes and various crops including strawberries.
During the years of 1984-85 she traveled to Togo and Senegal in West Africa. Here she researched methods to increase productivity of the African groundnut, eventually leading to increased productivity of many different food crops in West Africa. As a member of the U.S. A.I.D.-U.S.D.A. team she assisted in establishing collaborative relationships with research centers and universities in South Africa. She also formally represented UMES in meetings with Egyptian universities.
- Award at the first annual White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities in 1988 given to professors for "exemplary achievements as educators, researchers, and role models"
- Award from Maryland Association for Higher Education in 1990
- George Washington Carver Public Service Hall of Fame Award from the Professional Agricultural Workers Conference in 2013