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Winners of the IGB DEI Awards announced

BY Ananya Sen

For the inaugural DEI Award, two projects have been selected for funding by the Committee on Diversity at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. “Surviving grad school: a student and research-led seminar series,” proposed by the Graduate Biomedical Engineering Society and “More than an internship: RIPE mentorship work experience for underrepresented students,” proposed by communications team at Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency were awarded $2500 and $7500 respectively.

Every member of the IGB plays an important role in our community. They bring their lived experiences and unique perspectives to their work, improving our ability to address societal needs. Unfortunately, systemic inequities result in the lack of diverse representation in genomics research and beyond. It is therefore imperative to support projects that integrate diversity, equity, inclusion, and wellness with research at the IGB.

With this aim in mind, COD invited IGB staff, affiliates, and collaborators to submit proposals that would help promote diversity in our institute and surrounding community. They were looking to fund projects that supported members from underrepresented groups, produced a welcoming environment for everyone, and provided training to scientists to remind them of the inequities that academic institutions still have to contend with.

Graduate students are often at risk for negative workplace behaviors, including bullying, retaliation, and dismissiveness from their advisors. Although this is not a new problem, it is a pressing one. In 2019, a survey conducted by Nature found that one in five PhD students has experienced bullying. Even worse, international students are especially susceptible because they often perceive their advisor as having control over their visa and ability to continue to work in the US. To address this problem, GradBMES will conduct a workshop series for incoming graduate students, with a focus on international students and those from underrepresented populations. The workshops will provide them with resources to recognize and respond to negative mentor behavior, obtain external support, and hold the departments accountable. GradBMES hopes that the series will foster interpersonal connections between peers and help students develop positive professional relationships with their mentors.

Gaining work experience is a crucial part of setting students up for success. However, while Black, Hispanic, and first-generation college students benefit more from internship experience than their white or continuing-generation peers, they were 16-33% less likely to be given the opportunity to participate. With this in mind, the RIPE communications team will be accepting students into two 16-week communications internships, allowing them to work with the RIPE research group and participate in career-preparation activities under the guidance of communications professionals. The students will learn how to develop, pitch, and implement a multi-platform 10-week social media campaign, write feature and research-focused stories, and will assist with other communications duties such as meeting facilitation and facility tours. These activities will provide them with important skills such as interviewing experts, effective communication, strategic planning, critical thinking, and content analysis. The students will also receive help in producing resumes and cover letters with the hope that their experience and networking over the internship will help them receive job offers or get accepted into a graduate program.

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