Saturday, May 19, 2007

Diversifying the Life Sciences

"African-Americans make up 13 percent of the United States population, but comprise only 5 percent of those employed in the life, physical, and social sciences. Or with this: less than 3 percent of Ph.D.s in biology and chemistry are held by African-Americans. Different statistics pepper various reports, but none dispute the central fact, that African-Americans do not hold life science jobs in numbers commensurate with their representation in the US population. "

An excerpt from the May 11, 2007 Issue of Science Magazine
Focus on Diversity: INCUBATING INNOVATION - Diversity Efforts Rejuvenate the Life Science Work Force

I am one of one African-Americans pursuing a Ph.D. in biology at my institution (a mid-tier research department). In the 17 years since the department initiated a doctorate program, I am only the second African-American to be admitted and pursue a doctorate degree. I was actually recruited to my department via an NSF-AGEP grant. After my 'freshman year' in the program, the university backed out of this NSF education and diversity program; they cited that participating in the program is too-expensive. Since, then there hasn't been a single African-American student invited to interview or accepted in to the doctorate program. Furthermore, I can't remember a single time my department has hosted an African-American seminar speaker or interviewed an African-American for one of its open faculty positions.

Now, the fact that the numbers of Ph.D. scientists is rather low has a lot to do with these issues. Diversity and pluralism are supposed to be so important to institutions and departments. But
what disappoints me more, is the fact that institutions and academic leaders 'talk about diversity' but no one is willing to provide the resources and/or pave the way to attract, retain, and train minority graduate students.

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