August 2010

Overcoming Isolation in Science

Minorities in science often have a hard time finding other minorities to connect with. The ASBMB Minority Affairs Committee has launched several initiatives in an effort to eliminate some of this isolation.

 

minoirtyFor many underrepresented minorities, pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics is often accompanied by isolation from their own culture or demographic group. Minority students frequently find themselves as one of a very few of their kind in a classroom, and, as their classes increase in scientific and mathematical complexity, they routinely become the lone survivor. These trends continue in graduate school and beyond, where minorities may be the sole representative of their demographic group in a lab, building, department or during week-long scientific gatherings in isolated venues.

The infrequent contact between underrepresented minority scientists in similar or complementary disciplines prevents the development of relationships that might prove beneficial while navigating the terrain of a scientific career. This is unfortunate, because there are various experiences and challenges that generally are unique to minority scientists. Avenues that allow minorities to share their experiences and discuss best practices for surmounting challenges may prove fruitful in fostering success, particularly among young individuals who are just starting their scientific careers.

To this end, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Minority Affairs Committee has established a minority scientist network called the “Partnership for Diversity.” Anyone interested in diversity issues can join on the MAC website. Network members receive updates on funding initiatives and summer research programs, information about scientific outreach, news about special functions— particularly those associated with diversity issues— at the ASBMB annual meeting and notices on obtaining or becoming a scientific mentor.

The network fostered a wonderful turnout at the 2010 annual meeting minority scientist networking reception, and, we hope that the registry will be used to identify future minority speakers for ASBMB and other scientific society meetings.

 

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