UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Titilayo Shodiya, a graduate of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, was one 16 recipients selected to receive the Alumni Achievement Award from the Penn State Alumni Association. The award recognizes alumni 35 years of age and younger for their extraordinary professional accomplishments. She was honored during a virtual ceremony on April 13.
“Receiving this award makes me feel that I'm on the right track,” said Shodiya who earned her bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering in 2010. “It gives me such a warm feeling because I think everyone who graduates from Penn State wants to make Penn State proud.”
Shodiya is an established scientist with an excellent record of discovery and innovation. After graduating from Penn State, she earned her master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering in 2012 and doctoral degree in mechanical engineering and materials science in 2015, both from Duke University. From 2015 to 2017, she was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan, working on epitaxial thin film growth using electrochemistry. She also worked at the university’s Energy Institute fabricating and characterizing battery cells and overseeing the characterization facilities.
Her research has been published in Scientific American, Journal of the American Chemical Society and Journal of Catalysis. While at Duke, she and her team were awarded a U.S. Patent for research in producing clean hydrogen gas.
She currently works for the National Institute of Standards and Technology as the deputy quality manager, where she is responsible for the facilitating the implementation of the NIST Quality Management System at all its locations. This supports NIST’s mission to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology.
Shodiya describes herself as a “scientist, engineer, speaker, host, interviewer, writer, pop culture expert, content creator and storyteller who loves looking at everyday things through a scientific lens and making scientific concepts go down smooth.”
She says that one of the things she is most proud of is the Dope Labs podcast she created and hosts with her best friend, Zakiya Whatley.
Dope Labs blends pop culture and science with the goal of making science and engineering more accessible.
“In Dope Labs, we try to meet people where they are,” Shodiya said. “A lot of people who teach science know how to teach a very specific slice of science and sometimes it can be really difficult to understand. What we try to do is not necessarily dumb it down but make it more accessible by rooting it in what’s trending on social media or in the news.”
Dope Labs has more than 50,000 followers on Spotify, was featured on "CBS This Morning" and Shodiya and her co-host were named to Essence Magazine’s “Woke 100 List” in 2019. The impact of the series was highlighted by former First Lady Michelle Obama, has been nominated for three Webby Awards and was the 8th most popular science podcast in the United States in 2020.
“We had no idea that anyone would ever listen,” Shodiya said. “I thought maybe my sisters, our friends or my parents might listen. We had no idea that it was going to have such a large impact, and that people were going to really love it.”
She is also strong advocate for women and underrepresented monitories in STEM. She is the founder and CEO of Project YES Academy Inc. (Youth in Engineering and Sciences), an organization which increases students’ awareness of career opportunities and their confidence in scientific environments.
Shodiya credits Penn State for helping her on the path to a successful career.
“I went to a really small high school so going to Penn State and being part of such a large University helped me grow in a lot of ways, especially with how I saw the world,” Shodiya said. “I think one of the most important things that Penn State taught me outside of the classroom was perspective. I became more aware that everybody has a bigger story than what you see on the surface.”
Shodiya was also selected to deliver the commencement address for the joint spring commencement ceremony for the College of Arts and Architecture, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, College of Nursing and Eberly College of Science on Saturday, May 8.
"I'm really happy that I've been able to make Penn State proud with the work that I've been doing,” Shodiya said. “I feel immense pride in being selected for the Alumni Achievement Award and to being selected to give the commencement address. I feel like this is just the beginning and I hope that I can keep giving back to Penn State in in any way possible.”