Krishna Foster (Finding Aid)

Krishna Foster

1970 -

Favorite Color: Blue

Favorite Food: Greens

Favorite Time of Year: Spring

Favorite Vacation Spot: Summer in Aspen Colorado

Interview Length: 178 minutes

Interview Date(s): April 28, 2011

Interview Location(s): Los Angeles, California


Krishna Foster talks about her mother and father's family background. Her mother, Frances Smith Foster was born in Dayton, Ohio to Quentin Theodore Smith and Mabel Smith, and she studied literature at Miami University in Ohio. Foster's father, Warren Reed Foster, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and he studied applied chemistry at Miami University in Ohio. After her parents married, they moved to California where her father was in the military, serving in Vietnam. Foster grew up with one younger brother named Warren Quentin Foster and a Mexican student named Rosa Maria Ramirez.

Krishna Foster describes her childhood in La Mesa, California. She enjoyed building forts, looking at bugs, riding her bike, and performing in plays. Foster went to a Montessori school day camp where her creativity was allowed to be free. At Maryland Avenue elementary School Foster had both good and bad teachers, and even though it was an integrated school she didn't have any problems socially. In fifth grade, she spent the year in Atlanta at an all-black school and was excluded for being the new girl. This was during the Atlanta child murders in the early eighties. Foster finishes by telling the story of how she got her name Krishna from the Hindu god.

Krishna Foster talks about her junior high (La Mesa Junior High School) and high school (Helix High School) experiences. Her favorite class initially was English, but when it came time to choose a college, Foster had decided to pursue a STEM discipline. She chose Spelman College because an all women's HBCU provided her with the supportive environment that she needed to counter the insecurities of being a high achieving, middle class, African American women who was different from her high school classmates. Foster entered Spelman in 1988 and studied African heritage and culture as part of an African sisterhood called Ossett. She was an engineering major initially, but switched to chemistry during her junior year, where she had to take many classes at Morehouse College, the all-male counterpart to Spelman. The president of Spelman at the time was Johnnetta Cole who helped to secure a twenty million dollar endowment.

Krishna Foster mentions her advisor at Spelman College, Etta Faulkner, who encouraged her to work hard and play hard. She chose to conduct her graduate studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1992 because it was among the top schools in ozone chemistry. After a brief moment of uncertainty, Foster decided to continue and earn her Ph.D. degree, and her dissertation thesis examined the molecular interactions of gasses with the surface of the ozone layer. After earning her Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1998, Foster went on to do a post doc in the California State system in the laboratory of Barbara Finlayson-Pitts. During that time, she had the opportunity to study ozone chemistry in the arctic, an experience which taught Foster to be a good planner, but also to think on her feet.

Krishna Foster recaps her work in the arctic which related to the depletion of surface level ozone and how the molecules behaved in the dark as opposed to at sunrise. In 2000, Foster joined the faculty at California State University, Los Angeles because she wanted to stay where her husband's job was. She also wanted to work with undergraduates who were at the beginning of their academic careers. At Caifornia State University in Los Angeles, Foster published her first paper with a student co-author which proved to be one of the highlights of her eleven-year career. The paper examined methods for looking for reduced phosphorus oxyanions in aqueous solutions which mimicked geo-thermal waters.

Krishna Foster talks about her promotions and activities at California State University, Los Angeles. In 2006, she was promoted to associate professor, and won the Distinguished Woman's Award in 2007. She worked on the American Chemical Society's project SEED and is also a member of the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE). Among her career milestones are her 2004 publication, 'Detection of Hypophosphite, Phosphite, and Orthophosphate in Natural Geothermal Water by Ion Chromatography.' Foster gives advice to budding scientists, projects her own hopes and desires for the future of her career, and expresses her concerns for the African American community. She ends by talking about her husband Kwasi Malik Conner and her children Camilla and Julian.

Krishna Foster responds to the last question about how she would like to be remembered. She says that she would like to be known as somebody who contributed and somebody who cared. Contributed in regards to her science, in terms of leaving something behind that scientists in the future will use widely. She also wants to contribute to the improvement of minority education in science, for example learning how to teach minority students effectively and successfully moving students through undergraduate to Ph.D. to meaningful careers in science.

56 Stories (See Ordered Story Set)