Black History Month: An Interview with Naola Ferguson-Noel, FNAI


As we celebrate Black History Month, Naola Ferguson-Noel, FNAI of NAI Member Institution The University of Georgia, shares with us the reason she became an inventor, the importance of diversity in innovation, and how mentorship can help to foster diverse perspectives.

Q. What inspired you to become an inventor?
A. My father is a retired university professor and enjoyed a fantastic career as a global educator and innovator in his own right in the area of agronomy and agriculture. Having a role model with whom I identified closely made my dreams seem more accessible.

Q. What is the importance of having diverse and unique perspectives in the innovation and invention ecosystem?
A. In the right work environment you bring your whole self to the problems that you address professionally. Trying to be innovative in a vacuum means that key practicalities and barriers can be missed. There is also tremendous value in getting out in the world and understanding the countries and regions where your invented technologies are being deployed. Such broader perspectives are crucial for development of applied solutions that work in real life.

Q. What suggestions do you have on how mentorship could help support attracting, engaging, and retaining diverse perspectives and individuals in the innovation and invention ecosystem?
A. Mentorship has been crucial to every phase of my education and professional development and I have been fortunate to have developed mentors from across the world. My lab at UGA’s PDRC is composed of associates born in the US, Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean and I am certain that drawing on diverse talent has specifically contributed to our success. A mentor should encourage you to develop your own voice and opinions and be supportive even if they don’t agree with your point of view. Ensuring that we all feel heard and safe expressing ourselves can lead to unique perspectives that make a difference.

See Dr. Ferguson-Noel’s publications here: