Alumnae in Science, Technology, and Health

Clark Atlanta University (CAU) celebrates the accomplishments of the phenomenal alumnae of our past, present and future. Here are few of the famous and influential alumnae in the fields of science, technology and health/medicine that hail from CAU and our predecessor institutions, Atlanta University (1865) and Clark College (1869):


Dr. Myra Adele Logan
Surgeon, physician, anatomist
First Woman to Perform Open Heart Surgery
Atlanta University, 1927

Logan graduated as valedictorian at Atlanta University in 1927 and went on to earn an MS in psychology from Columbia University. Logan was the inaugural recipient of the Walter Gray Crump Scholarship for Young Women, which landed her a $10,000 four-year scholarship to attend New York Medical College. After graduating from medical school in 1933, she began her internship at Harlem Hospital, where she worked in the emergency room.


In 1943, Myra Adele Logan became the first woman to perform open heart surgery in the ninth operation of its kind performed anywhere in the world. Dr. Logan’s other achievements include development of X-ray processes that could more accurately detect differences in tissue density, allowing tumors to be discovered earlier; and her groundbreaking work with antibiotics, including Aureomycin. She was also published in several medical journals and became the first African American woman elected a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.


Later in her career, Dr. Logan served as a founding partner and treasurer of the Upper Manhattan Medical Group of the Health Insurance Plan, one of the first group practices in the United States. She also worked with the NAACP's Health Committee




Pernessa C. Seele, Ph. D

Immunologist and Public Health Activist
Clark College, 1976 | Atlanta University, 1979

Dr. Pernessa C. Seele is the founder and CEO of The Balm In Gilead, Inc., a non-profit organization whose mission is to prevent diseases and to improve the health status of individuals who are disproportionately affected by high rates of health disparities, especially HIV, hepatitis C, cervical cancer and sexual violence.  Dr. Seele has worked with three US presidential administrations on issues of HIV/AIDS in the United States and abroad.


Essence Magazine, in its 35th-anniversary edition, selected her as one of the 35 Most Beautiful and Remarkable Women in the World, while Ebony Magazine named her one of its Power 150. In 2017, His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, bestowed upon Dr. Seele the Pierre Toussaint Medallion.  Dr. Seele received a Bachelor of Science degree and Master of Science from Clark Atlanta University in 1976 & 1979 respectively, and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from the College of New Rochelle, NY in 2007.





Betty Wright Harris
Chemist and Inventor
Atlanta University, 1963

An accomplished organic analytical chemist, Dr. Betty Wright Harris is widely recognized as a leading expert on explosives, environmental remediation, and hazardous waste treatment. In 1986, she patented a simple and extremely sensitive spot test that allowed the military and private industry to quickly ascertain the presence of potentially explosive material. The federal Department of Homeland Security also uses the test to screen for nitroaromatic explosives.


Born on July 29, 1940, in rural northeastern Louisiana, Dr. Harris earned her M.S. in chemistry at Atlanta University in 1963 and her Ph. D. from New Mexico State University in 1973. Harris taught math and chemistry at several institutions before working at IBM and then Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where she worked for 20 years in high explosives research and development (R&D) and environmental management and restoration.


Dr. Harris served as the chief of chemical technology for Solar Turbine Inc., where she managed the technical laboratories and investigated cold-end corrosion of super alloys, which was caused by sulfuric acid and soot in gas turbine engines. In 2002, Dr. Harris worked at the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Classification, which is an agency that determines whether documents should remain classified or be released to the public. Dr. Harris held a “Q” clearance level at the agency, which allowed her to view items with a Restricted Data” classification





Reatha Clark King
Chemist and Corporate Executive
Clark College 1958

Clark was recruited to attend Clark College (now CAU), where she initially enrolled as a home economics major. She was encouraged to become a research chemist by the college’s head of the chemistry department, Alfred Spriggs. King later, graduated from Clark College with her B.S. degree in chemistry and mathematics in 1958. After Clark College, she went on to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Chicago. The National Bureau of Standards, now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology, hired King as its first African-American female chemist; there, she researched fluorine flame colorimetry for six years. Her invention of a coiled tube that allowed fuel to cool instead of exploding was a crucial advance in the space race of the 1960’s.


After teaching at several educational institutions during the 70’s-80’s, King was recruited by General Mills in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1988. During this time, she served as vice president of the General Mills Corporation and president and executive director of the General Mills Foundation. In 2002, she was elected as chairman of the board of trustees of General Mills Foundation until retiring in 2003.  


Dr. King is the recipient of numerous awards, including 14 honorary doctorate degrees. She continues as a contributor in education, health and social action, the arts, and cultural affairs, serving as a Trustee at Clark Atlanta University and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.





Rainbow Edwards-Barris, Ph. D
Anesthesiologist and Philanthropist
Clark Atlanta University, 1996

Rainbow Edwards-Barris graduated from Clark Atlanta University with a B.S. in biology. Edwards-Barris is a board-certified anesthesiologist and has worked for a major hospital group in Los Angeles for the past six years.


In 2018, Dr. Rainbow Barris and her husband, writer, producer and creator of ABC’s Black-ish Kenya Barris pledged $1M to their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University. The Kenya and Rainbow Barris Annual Scholarship Award supports students majoring in biology or mass media arts.