Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Opportunity: Apply to PhD Pipeline Program--Extended deadline

I was just made aware of the PhD Pipeline Program. The application deadline has been extended to March 15, 2012.  Here is a description taken directly from the website:

PhD Pipeline Opportunity Program

The Ph.D. Pipeline Opportunity Program “Ph.D. Pipeline” is supported by a grant from the US Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) to assist under-represented minorities to qualify for and to acquire doctoral degrees in business disciplines. The PhD Pipeline includes partnerships with an increasing number of business schools to establish a national model which involves academic-year activities at each participating institution as well as a two-week summer workshop at the Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. This program represents a bold, new collaborative model for leading business schools to address an issue of vital economic impact, and includes capacity-building initiatives at selected Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to more effectively and systematically encourage and equip under-represented student populations for doctoral study in business disciplines.

Visit this link to apply. Good luck!

Diversity in Science Carnival #13: Black History Month--Celebrating Our Future

The Diversity in Science Carnival.
Celebrating Black Scientists Past, Present, and Future

Welcome to the 13th DiS Carnival! This is the third carnival celebrated during Black History Month (the first two, DiS #7 and #1 are here).

In 1976, under President Gerald Ford, February also became known as Black History Month. For 50 years prior, "Negro History" was commemorated during the second week of the second month of each year. Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950), known as the Father of Black History, was dedicated to studying and disseminating information about black life, history and culture. Many celebrate Black History, but the struggle to bring more scientists into the fold of popular black history continues. Following in this tradition, I would like to celebrate and engage Black scientists as community role models, leaders, and citizens.

Projecting Our Image

How does a child picture a scientist? (Photo credit:Mad4Science)

Thankfully, more and more people are challenging us to combat the stereotypical images of scientists (this Mad4Science has some additional "before and after" drawings from children along the lines of the images above). Also please look at Mariette DiChristina's article on the Scientific American website (and please check out the featured profile of Eunice Nuekie Cofie, President and Chief Cosmetic Chemist of Nuekie, Inc., who also shared this article with me). I love these efforts, but I still feel there aren't enough Black faces being put forth as direct challenges to the predominate stereotypes--we need more than glamorous head shots--we want scientists in action! So please, submit your photos and your stories here and here!

Thinking back...
James H. Stith (left) showing a cadet how to use equipment
during a physics class. This photo was taken at the U.S.
Military Academy at West Point, NY.
(Photo Credit: AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives

In developing and reading material for this carnival, I got to thinking that as a minority scientist, I've been lucky to have many role models. Here are the names of minority scientists that have influenced, assisted, and impressed me:
Think back and reach out to scientists that have guided and influenced you!

Andrea Stith with Joe Francisco, a past
president of the American Chemical Society.
Knowing Your History

I'm not sure if it's just me, but when I think of history, I think of books--heavy, thick, and dusty ones at that. Recently, I was reminded upon meeting Dr. Joseph Francisco that you can learn valuable lessons from someone else's personal just need to ask!

There are some online resources, that give the stories of well-regarded scientists. The National Academy of Science has its African American History Program which began over 25 years ago as a staff initiative. It is now expanded to include an online database of African American citizens of the United States who have made significant contributions in science, engineering, or medicine. Here are some biographies from and here is one for the kids!

But as I found out in my interview featured on PhDforLife with Dr. Gregory Good, a science historian at the Center for the History of Physics, recording the lives and accomplishments of scientists is crucial because it "gives a face to science." You don't have to be a historian to do this--he recommends ways that YOU can get involved in making sure papers and photos are archived, departmental records saved and oral histories recorded. Also see this post if you think you may want to become a historian of science!

Celebrating Excellence

Thanks to everyone who submitted links to excellent black scientists. Specifically, Jennifer Michalowski at Howard Hughes Medical Institute shared the web pages for HHMI Early Career Scientists Russell A. DeBose-Boyd and Tirin Moore, and HHMI Investigator Erich D. Jarvis. I'd also like to share the profiles of HHMI Professors Winston A. Anderson and Isiah M. Warner. Here also is a link to the 2011 class of HHMI Gilliam Fellows.

HHMI affiliated scentists Andreson, Moore, Jarvis, DeBose-Boyd, and Warner. Photo credit: Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology also submitted this roundup of some of the interviews ASBMB Today has done with its Black members (like Namandje Bumpus, Marion Sewer, and Heather Pinkett). In recognition of Black History Month DNLee pays tribute to five urban ecologists that we all should know. Also, check out the HistoryMakers website--their archive is growing by the day!

In his post Always Bet on Black bashir points out that Blacks have achieved many notable "firsts". And indeed there are many excellent Black scientists! But we can't grow complacent now that we've named our first Black U.S. President. We must focus on an achievement that still eludes us-- that of the first Black scientist to win a Nobel prize in physics, chemistry, or medicine. Thanks to Alberto Roca for pointing out that:
An African American from Detroit, Dr. Ralph J. Bunche (political scientist) was the first black man to receive the distinguished Peace Prize (1950) for his work as a United Nations mediator, and Sir William Arthur Lewis, received the 1979 Economics Prize.
I also agree with Alberto that another worthy milestone would be a Black president of the National Academy of Sciences.

Pursuing Excellence and Celebrating Our Passion

Thanks to everyone who submitted links that depict the passion that many African Americans have for science and strive to share. Here is one about Daniell Washington, a marine biologist who is also the CEO of her own foundation dedicated to inspiring young people and educating them about the importance of the ecosystem protecting the marine environment.

Equally passionate about the environment is Dr. Gillian Bowser. A native of Brooklyn, she is now a research scientist in Colorado, leading many efforts to involve students in ecology. She knows that nature itself thrives on diversity and so does science! Here is the story from Terrasig of Jason Dorsette, a scholar, leader, and inspiration!

Also thanks to DNLee for making me aware of a guest post to her blog The Urban Scientist by her good friend and Sister in Science Charlotte Clark, a geologist. Charlotte describes her journey to becoming a scientist. In Brilliant & Beautiful: Black Female Chemists Promote Science Careers Among Women of Color we learn of two entrepreneurial women who made sure they had a way to give back.

Many thanks to the University of Washington chapter of SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science) for submitting two posts celebrating Black History month. The first provides an excellent discussions of African Americans in the US, at UW, in higher education, and in STEM. The second is a guest post called "The Scientist of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow" by Keon Vereen, an aerospace engineering doctoral student. In it he talks about the influences that have enabled his science journey and relates what he believes the future holds.

Celebrating our Future

We are on a Quest for Excellence. This was the theme of the Symposium on Supporting Underrepresented Minority Males in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics held on February 28th at the NASA headquarters. In her speech Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) remarked that while every child won’t go to the moon, we need to make sure that each and every one believes they can. Better yet, I believe that if we teach them their History, they will KNOW they can.

Here is a short list of organizations, resources and programs (please comment to add to this list!) that can help make this dream possible:


March is Women's History Month and DiS Carnival #14 will explore the role of women in the enterprise of STEM. It will be hosted at Double X Science - bring science to the woman in you. Emily WIllingham, co-founder of the blog community will serve as editor.

Quest for Excellence

This report can be
downloaded here.
Hi all! I wanted to let you know the release of The Quest for Excellence: Supporting the Academic Success of Minority Males in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Disciplines. The authors are Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D. and Lorenzo L. Esters, Ed.D., and the report was published by The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) with the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The report was released yesterday at the Symposium on Supporting Underrepresented Minority Males in STEM Disciplines held at NASA headquarters. Here are links to the agenda, a PowerPoint presentation, and the Minority Male STEM Initiative.

Chance Encounters

At a meeting I attended last week, I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Joseph Francisco, William E. Moore Distinguished Professor—Physical Chemistry, at Purdue University. I thought that I would take a quick moment to introduce him to you!

From his website you can see that he is very good at what he does (in addition to his academic accomplishments, he has held many honors including President of the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, an Alexandar von Humboldt Research Award for Senior U.S. Scientists, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and President of the American Chemical Society). But as he shared his story, I was more struck by how his journey through life and as a scientist was catalyzed.

It was through a chance encounter outside of his house. He is fully aware that had he waited a few more minutes to walk out the door, he may have missed the stranger standing on the sidewalk. We all know that achievement doesn't come without a lot of hard work, but he readily admits that luck and the ability to build and maintain mentoring relationships helped him realize his potential. I feel lucky to have met him and plan not to forget the lesson that his life has taught me!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More on the Center for History of Physics and Becoming a Science Historian

This blog post provides some additional information that resulted from my conversation with Dr. Gregory Good of the Center for the History of Physics.

How does your Center interact with the public?

Usually it is professional historians, science writers, journalists, and producers (NoVA, BBC, American experience) and some scientists that stop by. The Center mostly interacts with the public through the websites. Much of the website content is found through through Google searches—their aim is to have content appear on first age of hits.

Using their content:
For education use content on web is fair use… go ahead. They draw the line at commercial publishers. 23,000 of 30,000 images are online. The low resolution thumbnails are good enough for PowerPoint and blog use. For high res images there is a no charge, but there is a handling fee (to cover staff time).

How do you become a professional science historian?
For his generation his path is typical—he was an undergraduate science major who moved in to the history of science as a doctoral student. Today many first graduate in history and move into history of science. There are pros and cons to both pathways as the older generation of science historians are less used to social/cultural/political issues and the younger generations have a less clear understanding of what science is doing. But they complement each other.

One interesting tidbit is that Brazil is a top producer of physics historians, and as in Europe the disciplinary historians tend to hold their academic appointments in the science departments (rather than in a department of history).

Also, he wants to remind you that it’s not just the people who are important to study. Things of current scientific relevance might have been undervalued in years past. What “old folks” have done is not necessarily throw away science since old data can be useful in various contexts. For example, in April a conference will be held at the AIP building about the preservation of glass plate negatives (American Astronomical Society wants to preserve them).  Another example is that O2 readings from 2nd polar year are very useful today (80 years later)… you never know!

Where can you study history of science?

Mostly graduate programs are available… only a few have bachelors programs.  Probably 100 grad schools with history or science can do minor. A few he listed are:
Harvard, Minnesota, Wisconsin-Madison, Indiana, Toronto, York University (Canada), and UPenn.

What made you decide to become a historian?
Change in field was quixotic. He was physics major at a liberal arts school. Philosophy classes introduced him to “old dead scientists,” and this struck a chord and he decided to divert his study from astronomy to give history of science a try. He didn’t know the field’s potential, but it resonated and has worked for him.

Where do science historians work?
They work in academia (actually less than 12%... similar to physics overall), government, museums, private research firms (history associates), branches of military (Naval Research Lab and Army Corps of Engineers each have science historians), and many also end up in academic administration.

Black History and the History of Science: A Conversation with Dr. Gregory Good

Dr. Good snowshoeing.
Here is a great example
of a Physicist and Historian
in action! (Photo courtesy of
Gregory Good.)

This post is a the result of a conversation I had with Dr. Gregory Good, The Spencer Weart Director, Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics (AIP).

I approached Dr. Good because I was curious to know much is known about Black History and the History of Science.  I know we learn of individual Black Scientists and their contributions, but is it possible to study their contributions and struggles as they have been studied in American culture (example: at Yale Unviersity) and American history (example: the Civil War). 

A Google search on History of Blacks in science pulled up this list of references from the Library of Congress.  Still it was Dr. Good’s impression that the History of Blacks in Science is largely unexplored territory and a subject that he hopes will catch fire.  A problem, he says, is that there are not very many historians of science and many of them are working on a book of fairly narrow focus.

This is the photo of Bob Ellis from the
archived at the Center for the History of
Physics. Ellis is discussed
in Abigail Foerstner’s "James Van Allen:
The First Eight Billion Miles," and also in
George Ludwig’s Opening Space Research.
George says that Bob Ellis single-handedly
integrated the US Navy officers mess on
one of his research trips, since a civilian
could not be made to sleep with the crew!
The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT)  Committee on Minorities in Physics has taken on the history of HBCUs as its long range project. Also, the incoming AAPT president has challenged us to feature an exhibit on the topic at the 2013 winter meeting in New Orleans.

Dr. Good is also researching one African American physicist named Dr. Robert Anderson Ellis. Dr. Ellis died in 1989, and Good actually began his study based on his interest in the science topic rather than in the man himself.  Ellis was an undergraduate at Tennessee A&T and went to Yale for his Master’s. He received his PhD at Iowa working with James van Allen who is known for discovering the Van Allen radiation belt. Ellis was a contributor to this team discovery and also worked on one of the first serious controlled fusion experiments.  The work is well known, but many historians don’t realize he was African American.

For some great information about Blacks in science visit a Web page by Scott Williams (Math at  SUNY buffalo), although it has not been updated in a while.  The page is called Physicists of African Diaspora. There are also links to articles, as well as to African American mathematicians and computer scientists.

How can history help science?

This is also very important to specifically promote Black history. Science education in general needs black history as it puts human face on science. Teaching from first principles doesn’t resonate with everyone and doesn’t do much to strike imagination. In fact he feels it appeals to very few even of the scientifically inclined.

In general, we need to insert stories and promote role models. Other ways to excite is to get hands dirty. Students should not be penalized for not getting results.

Teachers hard pressed to get their day job done—so they need help.

In past AIP has done FaceBook and Twitter feeds to celebrate Black History Month. But another way he could help would be to collect material to put together a permanent Web exhibit about African Americans, Women, Hispanics in physics, that are featured at opportune times.

It is really import to try and prevent more papers from African American scientists getting lost.  In the past they have solicited HBCUs and others for materials, but they need more.  One lucky discovery was the papers of a Black scientist that ended up at a public library in Houston. Prior to this find, he never would have thought to look at a public library for such papers.

I asked him that if historians are doing the work—what can a non-historian do to spread the word? He suggests that if know black physicist that you do an oral history interview. He encourages everyone to seek out the personal papers of Black physicists—they can be invaluable.  Although AIP mostly archives papers that relate directly to AIP, they will act as an intermediary and help find a good home for the papers.

 What can you do?
  • Interview and uncle, aunt, grandparent, teacher, friend who is a scientist;
  •  Contact Dr. Good. He is willing to act as nerve center by helping with oral histories, interviews, and getting them transcribed and archived;
  • Collect all that you can find. Oral histories, photographs (hopefully more action shots than head shots), manuscripts, autobiographies, and department histories (these aren’t interesting to read, but they are critical to historians…can open important doors);
  • Volunteer with the Center for History of Physics. You can be anywhere in the world. Amateur or not-- the more the merrier. They can help you learn; and
  • Look at AIP Neils Bohr library website. It has an international catalogue of sources that has information for 9000 individual collections archived 900 institutions around the world.
Dr. Good remarked that “science and history are both good at predicting the past,” so I suggest that if you think something is important NOW go after it and make sure it gets recorded and noticed!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Guest Post--You Go Girl! Diversifying the Nature of Ecology

Dr. Bowser (left) with NASA astronaut Dr. Mae Jamison. Both were public delegates  at the 2011 UN Commission on the Status of Women.  (Photo courtesy of Dr. Gillian Bowser.)

This entry was submitted by Dr. Gillian Bowser, a research scientist at Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, at Colorado State University. She is the lead on a National Science Foundation grant called the Global Women Scholars Network in Sustainability. This network strives to promote women and girls in the sciences related to sustainability. Additionally, she is a leader in the Rocky Mountain Sustainability and Science Network (RMSSN) that brings together federal and state agencies, academic institutions, and non-profit organizations to collaborate in research relevant to sustainability. RMSSN is also committed to developing a diverse population of student-leaders who can address the many issues surrounding the management and use of public lands.

Dr. Bowser's contribution:

As a female African American Ecologist from Brooklyn, New York, I can count the number of ecologists who look like me on one hand—and not even need to use my thumb.  Ecology has long been the field of nature lovers and wilderness seekers and yet has spectacularly failed to attract diverse people.  “Minorities don’t like the wilderness” one of my colleagues declares as we are busy digging out our four-wheel drive vehicle in a remote corner of Great Sand Dunes National Park.  “Black people don’t like the cold…”  another colleague announces as we snowshoe up a canyon in Rocky Mountain National Park.  “Maybe they [black people] are just too urban” a professor suggests as we trek across a moon lit plateau in Grand Teton National Park.  “Ecology is about nature and black people don’t like the woods—remember whole lotta trees and rope is cheap” a friend confides as we herd an enthusiastic group of teenagers through the woods looking for insects.  Ecology, it seems, is determined to be a field about the processes of nature and to remain remarkably un-diverse.

However, I see hope for my chosen discipline. Yet that hope comes at the great costs of the greatest environmental threat facing humankind—climate change and environmental sustainability.  To address climate change, we need to engage the global populations in looking for sustainable solutions and those solutions will require social, community and environmental expertise all in one.  Suddenly, or so it seems, ecology has to include community and sustainability as a field speaks to all about the environment in a way that “pure” ecology has yet to achieve. 

To Celebrate Black History Month and African Americans in Science, I want to shout out to the youth.  The African American students interested in science today want to save the world for their communities and ecology is just one of the tools that they need in their toolkit for the task.  I now have students applying to my lab because we have a grant in women and sustainability and these students write applications about using ecology to help their communities.  I see African American students participating in our bioblitzes in urban gardens teaching younger students about the importance of bees as pollinators for grandma’s tomatoes.  I see social networks where Africans, African Americans and Hispanic students are talking about climate adaptation strategies to save a village from the uncertainty of climate change.   These students are my heroes and mentors.  My vision now of African Americans in science is one that I saw at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen three years ago.  A young African American woman spoke to the assembly of 191 nations and said  “I am saving the world for my generation NOW not tomorrow. “  You go girl.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Public competency in science: Are experts the best at setting the standards?

Please check out this essay by Baruch Fischhoff of Carnegie Mellon University.  In the essay he explains that experts, by establishing unrealistic standards of "knowledge", can actually under estimate the public's scientific competency. This can seriously impact public affairs and the public's well-being. I also think it is an important question because it may impact young people by keeping them from regarding science as accessible and relevant, and from seeing themselves as adept as thinkers.

Fischhoff describes three pathologies of those who are guilty of  "confusing ignorance with stupidity [and] casting those who don’t know as being incapable of learning." They are:

  1. placing the onus on citizens for not knowing facts that would be easily understood, had they just heard them (effective and thoughtful communication by experts is key!);
  2. accusing people of hypocrisy, when they fail to adopt every specific behavior that is conceivably consistent with a general attitude (just because you agree global warming is a problem, doesn't mean you can't take a plane when you vacation in Greece); and
  3. accepting the accuracy and relevance of expert opinion without question or qualification (Always take advice with a grain of salt!)

Not only can citizens play a role by communicating their needs and interests, but the so-called "experts" must also listen.  Fischhoff claims that relevant testing is possible, but the testers must be disciplined when designing the test. They should set and adhere to standards for listening carefully to the needs and wants expressed by the citizenry and making sure that the question they ask are clear and understandable. "Without such a disciplined approach, " Fischhoff declares, "competence testers can do bad, while feeling good."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pat and Andrea: Who Benefits?

Pat, of Fairer Science fame, and I have a periodic discussions about diversity and the sciences. We're hoping to post a series of posts that summarize our discussion. Although we tend to focus on gender, race, and ethnicity issues, we have briefly turned our attention to a different topic that serves as fodder for the initial co-blog entry. The discussion was initiated by a New York Times article about a lawsuit filed by the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute against former director Dr. Craig B. Thompson.  Here's the first entry: 
Who Benefits?
The recent press about the billion-dollar lawsuit brought by the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania against Craig Thompson, the current president of Memorial Sloan Kettering once again brings up the troubling issue of who owns research results. Is it the investigator, the university or is it the funding organization? When the research is funded privately this is a matter to be decided by contract.
In the Abramson case, the suit declares that the contract between Abramson Foundation and Thompson mandated co-ownership of discoveries and developments in order that monetary profits are shared and the Foundation can reinvest in its mission and “fund untold advancements in cancer treatment for generations to come.” 
When the research is funded by public funds, no such agreement exists. The United States has purposefully entered into a social contract whereby the government lays no claim to results obtained and products developed through the research that it funds. Under this scheme, researchers and their universities are able to operate and staff laboratories in the development and pursuit of creditable ideas. Whatismore, they are able to do this without putting the money out up front. And that is fine.
There are great benefits to this agreement as federal funds enable progress and innovation on a scale that would not, without this magnitude of support, be realizable. However, there are downsides as well. Money made based on the research is shared between the researcher and the institution but not with the public who funded the work. 
It does seem, however, that including the public as a shared beneficiary of monetary gain is warranted. As in the Abramson case, if the research pays off big time (we think a billion dollars is big time!) something should be reinvested directly in the American people (and generations to come) who helped make the discovery possible.

Hope you enjoyed it and that you're looking forward to more.  Pat has already promised that our next post will get back to the point--especially since it is Black History Month!

NIGMS is not only investing in our has a REAL plan

Thanks to FairerScience for pointing out a new strategic plan for biomedical research training (this is the summary document) published by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute for General Medical Sciences). There is also a blueprint for for implementation. Here are two guiding principles:
NIGMS Aims and Expectations for Research Training
Societal Benefits of a Diverse Workforce

Read and be merry...the future is looking brighter!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Modeling Black Male Acheivement

Today, Inside Higher Ed features a study released by Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Because so much is known about why Black men fail at the college level, Dr. Shaun Harper wanted to find out why they succeed. This method is valuable because when examining failure, studies focus on the factors that cause it. Now, we can find out the reasons for and hopefully replicate their successes.

Two hundred and nineteen black men at various institutions all over the country (examples include Harvard, Stanford, Florida A&M, Howard, Amherst, Williams, and Cal State Long Beach) showing significant achievement participated in the study.

The study found that it was not their socioeconomic backgrounds that differentiated them from the larger group or high-school academic records that distinguished them. Rather factors such as familial expectations, the interest and support of at least one K-12 teacher, financial and program support. Importantly, the programs both facilitated the transition to college and established high expectations of the students' college tenure.  Another factor, highlighted by Harper is a personal experience that allowed him to "see [him]self as a student, and set [him] on a completely different educational trajectory."

Some of the recommendations the study makes to policy makers are to develop programs that bridge the high school to college transition, make institutions share accountability for black male success, support ethnic student organizations, and remove financial barriers. He also argues that putting changes into practice will need to occur on a college-by-college basis.

This study is enlightening and perhaps equally "obvious" and straightforward questions need to be asked about increasing representation of African Americans (both male and female) at the faculty/professional level.  Along these lines, we are doing more than encouraging and enabling them to be good students and student leaders. Rather, we are looking for them to not only be successful but also demanding that they be regarded and accepted as peers. How different or similar might the issues and interventions be?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fingers Crossed: An Opportunity for Reform

I just wanted to post a link to this NYTimes editorial supporting the higher education proposals that Obama made during the State of the Union.  I think it's a vital discussion to have that could potentially benefit students, institutions, and the country. I can only imagine that while many parents and students are hopeful, many State legislators university faculty, administrators and presidents are being overcome by a wave of anxiety. Still it's an opportunity.

The editors state:
Determining what amounts to good value will be difficult, and persuading Congress to move forward on any of these ideas will be hard. But Mr. Obama is right that the federal government should begin leveraging its sizable investment in higher education for reform. He has set the stage for a long overdue discussion about what ails higher education and what might be done about it.
This discussion is indeed long overdue.   Cost is an issue, but we have to talk primarily about the societal expectations and roles for higher education in the near and long term.  Even if it costs less, if the quality, relevance and accountability are not there--it's a waste of money.

Honoring history through STEM

Photo of Nikky Finney, available from
her official website .  
On her Facebook page, Maya Angelou recognizes the work of Nikky Finney, a professor at University of Kentucky and winner of the 2011 National Book Award for poetry.  Born in South Carolina, she was the child of activists and came of age during the civil rights and Black Arts Movements. From an early age she recognized and grew to understand the powerful synergy between history and art.
In addition to recognizing and congratulating Professor Finney on this achievement, I think it's also worth a moment to reflect on the connections between (Black) history and modern science. How does your history (be it personal, cultural, societal, etc.) empower and motivate your decisions and efforts?

For me, I'll admit, this is not a question that I've long been attuned to... although, my years spent living in Germany and China have made this question far more personally relevant and important to me. By going into science--I had always thought that I was "doing my part." During my doctoral studies, I decided I'd "done" enough.  I felt that academia (at least not in a biophysics lab) was not a place where I would thrive.

This personal reflection, my overall interest in the science workforce, persistent evidence that Blacks in general are not thriving in research environments, and others' perspectives on what to do about it are influencing how I perceive the "dilemma". How can Black scientists benefit from reflecting on the continuing struggle for the broad acceptance African American Studies as a discipline important to more than African Americans. How might this pertain to science and its conduct?

I don't know the answers and I'd love to hear your views on whether these are the right questions, but I am coming to believe that focusing on getting minority students to study and pursue a career in science is not enough. I'd like to challenge my own assumptions about how research "should" be done and how the "right" questions are framed. I am sure people who are far more intuitive than I am have put forth some great questions and perspectives on this. If you know of any, please share!  For change (evidenced by increasing participation and a less "leaky" STEM pipeline) to happen we must find a way to make our voices coherent, aims cohesive, and efforts persistent. Perhaps we can find a way to do this through history.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The NIH Requests Your Opinion on Diversity in the Biomedical PhD Workforce

The NIH has put out a request for information concerning diversity in the biomedical workforce. All comments submitted by the February 24, 2012 deadline will be considered by the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce. You can find more information through the working group's web page. Here is the charge of the committee.
Its charge will focus on five key transition points in the pipeline: (i) entry into graduate degree programs; (ii) the transition from graduate degree to post-doctoral fellowship; (iii) the appointment from a post-doctoral position to the first independent scientific position; (iv) the award of the first independent research grant from NIH or equivalent in industry; and (v) award of tenure in an academic position or equivalent in an industrial setting. The Committee will provide concrete recommendations to the NIH Director on ways to improve the retention of underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities, and persons from disadvantaged backgrounds through these critical periods. The DBRWG's analysis will include both the NIH intramural research community and the NIH extramural research community.
Also of note, there is a public meeting to be held on February 14. Here is a copy of the agenda. It looks like after opening comments by a representative of the committee, there will be a series of presentations by an array of White House initiatives concerning the various under-represented communities (Note: While the committee's charge is broader, only presentations on ethnic groups are scheduled).  There is also a public comment period. Each organization will be allotted 5 minutes. You may email request a slot (deadline is 5pm February 10, 2012) in advance (see agenda for details). Same day requests will be considered at the discretion of the Chairperson.