The voice and keyboard of Professor Sreyashi Jhumki Basu are still. Her luminous career has ended in mid-flight.
To hundreds of disenfranchised students from low-income and minority households, Ms. Jhumki was a fount of inspiration and compassion, always available with wisdom and importantly, resources, to help her “kids” along the difficult path to academic achievement.
To her colleagues, Dr. Basu was the brilliant, original, grass-roots researcher driven to removing inequities in the teaching of science in America and access to higher education. To her friends, Jhumki was a witty and irreverent person, her home always open, filled with camaraderie and authentic cooking from exotic lands.
She ventured alone or took her family on adventures as her love of nature and animals, especially primates, led her to remote regions of distant countries. Jhumki filled the hearts of those who loved her with astonishment and with immense pride as she spread her wings and soared to uncharted skies, battling social injustice, inspiring those she touched, changing lives along the way.
Professor Sreyashi Jhumki Basu died on December 16, 2008 at age 31, following a fierce battle with metastatic breast cancer.
Jhumki attended Stanford University, where she received a B.A.in Human Biology in 1998. She completed her doctorate in Science Education at Teachers College, Columbia University in 2006, and joined New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. She was promoted to associate professor at NYU in October 2008 and received tenure.
On April 13, 2013, Columbia University Teachers College, as part of its 125th anniversary celebrations, posthumously awarded its Early Career Achievement award to Jhumki Basu.
Jhumki was awarded the 2008 research fellowship from the Knowles Foundation for her work on “How New Science Teachers Interpret and Enact Democratic Science Pedagogy.”
She was on the founding staff of the School for Democracy and Leadership in Brooklyn, New York, where she also served as acting assistant principal, science department chair, and mentor for new teachers. Jhumki taught Science at the Castilleja School in Palo Alto, California, and at the Renaissance School in Queens, New York. At Castilleja, she was on the staff of its Bridge program for under-privileged children, and the school awarded its Distinguished Alumni award to Jhumki in its centennial year, 2008.
Jhumki conducted research on access and equity for urban minority youth in science.She was involved in many projects that examined the pedagogical philosophies and toolkits of science teachers and developed support structures to help under-represented undergraduates succeed in science. She worked closely with science education students at NYU, mentored them in their research and received several prestigious awards during her career.
Jhumki’s undergraduate thesis at Stanford, “Targeting Children in Crisis: The Health of Street Children in Urban, Post-Communist Russia”, included several winter months on the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg interviewing homeless children and presenting outreach findings to UNICEF, Geneva.
Jhumki was a key participant in the Physics Emasondosondo (Physics-on-the-move), outreach visits to high schools in townships of Gauteng Province of South Africa to develop Physics curricula.
In this picture Jhumki (at center, wearing bandana) celebrates the end of chemotherapy in May 2002 with her South Bronx school students.