More than a scientist

Less than a month into grad school, I had my first potential-PI meeting.  The professor was a Nobel laureate, I’d spoken with him in writing a fellowship proposal, and I’d spent most of my summer envisioning myself in his lab.  He was interested in the fact that I’d left industry to do my PhD, and wanted to know why.

I explained that I wanted to see the culture of science change.  I wanted to work my way up and gain a position from which I could influence policy and make the scientific community more welcoming to folks from different backgrounds—more welcoming to people who looked like me, like my (Latin@) family, like my (queer, trans, low income) communities.  And under all of this, of course, because I wanted to do science!  But when I described my passion for change, the man looked at me across the table with disbelief and said, “That’s why you came to grad school?” Continue reading

Professional Development: When Diversity Means You

Recently, my department had it’s first-ever Safe Zones training. It’s a diversity program, available at many colleges and universities, that raises the issues faced by gender and sexual minority students. After attending the training, participants are issued “Safe Zone” stickers that they can put on their door, which allows faculty to open display that they are aware of and had training in issues that many LGBTQ students are uncomfortable bringing up. Every time I visit a university for a conference or to give a talk, it’s immediately on my radar and gives me a sense of whether the department has ever even had a passing thought about people like me.

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