Read and reflect

Published February 01 2019

To mark Black History Month 2019, we have pulled together a collection of articles and essays that address the experiences of people of color working and studying in the life sciences and other science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. See the full collection.

Raising a rainbow of scientists

In this essay, Ashley Warfield–Oyirifi, a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, lays out a plan to situate the study of biochemistry and molecular biology in their social context to retain students of color.

Raising a rainbow of scientists COURTESY OF ASHLEY WARFIELD-OYIRIFI

Six questions for three presidents

Sean Decatur, president of Kenyon College in Ohio; Roy Wilson, president of Wayne State University of Michigan; and Juliette Bell, former president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; talk about how a background in science serves them at the academic helm.

Six questions for three presidents
 

African-American men in the molecular biosciences

In a three-part series, Suzanne Barbour, dean of the University of Georgia Graduate School, talks to five black men about their experiences in the molecular biosciences. Their conversations cover the importance of mentoring, managing underrepresentation in science and perspectives for the future.

 

Addressing the tangled rootsof health disparities

Life scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities forge collaborations to rethink old questions, train young researchers and engage diverse communities.

Addressing the tangled roots of health disparities BRUCE WETZEL AND HARRY SCHAEFER, NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH

Colorblindness as ideology

Colorblindness is a popular behavior model that seems to reflect pro-diversity intentions, but Kecia Thomas, an industrial-organizational psychologist and senior associate dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia, explains how its practice suppresses diversity and elevates sameness.

Colorblindness as ideology
 

A hero for me

Kyeorda Kemp writes about Charles Drew, whose research in the field of blood transfusion resulted in improved techniques for blood storage and led to the development of blood banks that saved thousands of lives during World War II.

 

What’s in a name

Johns Hopkins University announced plans to name a research building on its East Baltimore campus in honor of Henrietta Lacks, whose “immortal cells” have been crucial to biomedical progress over six decades, including the development of anti-tumor and anti-viral treatments and the polio vaccine.

What’s in a name KADIR NELSON/SMITHSONIAN

Early support goes a long way

Austin Maduka, a recipient of the ASBMB’s Marion B. Sewer Distinguished Scholarship for Undergraduates and student at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, wrote about why he engages in education and outreach activities.

Early support goes a long way COURTESY OF AUSTIN MADUKA
 

Talking diversity and inclusion

We asked readers to weigh in on the state of diversity and inclusion in biochemistry and molecular biology. They had a lot to say. We published their responses in a special section, “Diversity and inclusion matters.”

 

Bringing scientific rigorto issues of diversity

Hannah Valantine, the first chief officer for scientific workforce diversity at the National Institutes of Health, talks about what the agency can and is doing to increase representation.

Bringing scientific rigor to issues of diversity THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH

Solving the faculty diversity problem

It’s possible to diversify the workforce within a single tenure cycle. Kenneth Gibbs Jr., the lead author of a paper in the journal eLife, called into question the notion that the key to diversifying the faculty hiring pool is focusing on building the talent pool of underrepresented scientists. He said the solution is in hiring decisions.

Solving the faculty diversity problem COURTESTY OF KENNETH GIBBS
 

Imposter syndrome and diversity students

Two graduate students and a professor recount their encounters with imposter syndrome.

 

Sharing the whole HeLa genome

Science writer John Arnst describes how an agreement between the family of Henrietta Lacks and the National Institutes of Health is benefiting researchers by providing access to the “immortal cells” HeLa genome.

Sharing the whole HeLa genome Tom Derrinck at the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research
 

Great achievements in science and technology in ancient Africa

Sydella Blatch writes about the contributions to science and technology by ancient Africans. She writes, in part, “While the remarkable black civilization in Egypt remains alluring, there was sophistication and impressive inventions throughout ancient sub-Saharan Africa as well.”

 

Remembering Tuskegee

Squire Booker traces the historical steps that led to the tragic, 40-year-long, government-sponsored Tuskegee syphilis study as well as the changes in public health and medical research policy that have come about as a result.

Remembering Tuskegee National Archives
 

In need of a new narrative

Natasha C. Brooks writes, “Unfortunately, narratives intended to perpetuate fear for past transgressions, those highlighting health disparities and those regarding minority scientists as exceptional and rare have become the norm. The existing narratives perpetuate the notion that science is 1) perpetrated against them and 2) not for them.”

#BlackandBMB

To mark Black History Month, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology will host a Twitter chat in February. Please join members of the ASBMB Minority Affairs Committee to reflect on the experience of being a person of color working in BMB.

Watch our Twitter feed @ASBMB for details about the date and time.

Questions? Contact Allison Frick or Stephanie Paxson.