A Conversation with Asian-Americans on Race

By Geeta Gandbhir and Michèle Stephenson, nytimes.com, April 5, 2016
In this installment of our “Conversations on Race” series for Op-Docs, Asian-Americans talk about how stereotypes unfairly confine them — particularly the one that brands them a “model minority.” As the subjects of our film explain, this perception not only devalues the experiences of other racial minorities, but it also renders the diverse experiences of Asian-Americans invisible…. Click here to watch the video, read the rest of the article, and check out the other videos in this series!

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Follow your dreams

By Adriana Landeros, sacnas.org, January 25, 2016
About a year ago, I was sitting in a cell contemplating what I was going to do with my life. I was facing three felonies and a sentence of 1-20 years for drug trafficking. I knew I could do better than the life I was leading. I decided to write the judge and tell him I missed being in school and doing research. I told him if I was given a second chance, I would not repeat my mistakes, and I would return to the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) to finish my undergraduate degree.
During my time in jail, I truly began to appreciate reading. I was eager to learn. I subscribed to Science magazine and tried to stay current, so I would be able to ask my future professors questions and engage in conversations about the science news.
Fortunately, my case was dismissed, and I was set free after being incarcerated for seven months. I applied for readmission to UCSC and was accepted for the spring of 2015. Now I am back at UCSC with the same goal in mind but a different way of thinking.
Clearly, not everyone lands in jail, but I’ve met plenty of people in my journey to obtain a higher education that have made mistakes, taken wrong turns, and, well … messed up. I want to share with my fellow students four key concepts I have learned along the way to keep me on my path to a life of science—a life where I am following my dreams.
Read more here!

What’s your story? How did you get into science? Share in the comments section!

The five keys to a successful Google team

Julia Rozovsky, rework.withgoogle.com, November 17, 2015
A group of us in Google’s People Operations (what we call HR) set out to answer this question using data and rigorous analysis: What makes a Google team effective? We shared our research earlier today with the Associated Press, and we’re sharing the findings here, as well.

Over two years we conducted 200+ interviews with Googlers (our employees) and looked at more than 250 attributes of 180+ active Google teams. We were pretty confident that we’d find the perfect mix of individual traits and skills necessary for a stellar team — take one Rhodes Scholar, two extroverts, one engineer who rocks at AngularJS, and a PhD. Voila. Dream team assembled, right?

We were dead wrong. Who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions. So much for that magical algorithm.

We learned that there are five key dynamics that set successful teams apart from other teams at Google:

  1. Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
  2. Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?
  3. Structure & clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
  4. Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
  5. Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?

Read more here…

Think about the teams you work on. Do they have these five elements?! Discuss in the comments!

What does it take to be a mentor?

by Nirmala Hariharan, blogs.nature.com, February 1, 2016
Mentoring is one of the most crucial roles played by faculty on a day to day basis. As a mentor, you provide scientific and technical guidance, and serve as the pillar of support for your team of students, postdocs and trainees. Mentoring can consume a lot of your time, and be very demanding, but has several long term benefits that will help you run a successful lab. Here’s what a great M.E.N.T.O.R provides for their students.
Motivation. You’re the constant source of motivation for your team; you need to see the big picture and guide your team through the ups and downs. You’re the leader that inspires excellence and encourages scientific innovation. As a good mentor, you must recognise the true potential of your mentees – even if they don’t – and know how to bring out the best in them. In short, you should make them realise what they’re capable of.
Read more here…

Students and postdocs, who are your mentors? Which of these skills do they have? Which skills could they work on? How can we help our advisors become better mentors? Feel free to leave responses in the comments section!

‘The Finkbeiner Test’

by Curtis Brainard, cjr.org, March 22, 2013
There’s still a gender gap in the sciences, with far fewer women than men in research jobs, and those women earning substantially less, but it doesn’t help when journalists treat every female scientist they profile as an archetype of perseverance.
….
[Christie] Aschwanden cited a few examples littered with phrases like, “she is married, has two children and has been able to keep up with her research,” and proposed that, as a means of avoiding such gratuitous gender profiles, reporters adopt a simple, seven-part test. To pass, a story cannot mention:

  • The fact that she’s a woman
  • Her husband’s job
  • Her child-care arrangements
  • How she nurtures her underlings
  • How she was taken aback by the competitiveness in her field
  • How she’s such a role model for other women
  • How she’s the “first woman to…”

Read more here…

What do you think about this test, readers? Will this test help us write better articles about women scientists? Do you think it’s okay to mention a woman’s personal life in an article about her career? Why or why not?

Stanford GSE study suggests academic benefits to ethnic studies courses

by Brooke Donald, ed.stanford.edu, January 12, 2016
A high school ethnic studies course examining the role of race, nationality and culture on identity and experience boosted attendance and academic performance of students at risk of dropping out, a new study by scholars at Stanford Graduate School of Education found.
The study looked at ethnic studies classes piloted in several San Francisco high schools and compared academic outcomes for students encouraged to enroll in the course with similar students who did not take it.
The researchers found that students not only made gains in attendance and grades, they also increased the number of course credits they earned to graduate… Read more here!

Women left behind as scientific enterprise grows

by Beryl Lieff Benderly, sciencemag.org, November 30, 2015
The number of researchers at work today throughout the world—about 7.8 million—has grown 21% in the past 6 years, according to the UNESCO Science Report: Towards 2030, published 10 November. “This remarkable growth is also reflected in the explosion of scientific publications,” which increased by 23.4% between 2008 and 2014—from 1,029,471 to 1,270,425 a year—the report adds.
….
Many of the world’s students are women, including 53% of those earning bachelor’s or master’s degrees, “but their numbers drop off abruptly at PhD level,” the report notes. At that level, men constitute 57% of those completing degrees. “The discrepancy widens at the researcher level, with men now representing 72% of the global pool. The high proportion of women in tertiary education is, thus, not necessarily translating into a greater presence in research.” Overall, “[t]he glass ceiling [is] still intact,” with “[e]ach step up the ladder of the scientific research system see[ing] a drop in female participation until, at the highest echelons of scientific research and decision-making, there are very few women left.” In addition to constituting a minority of only 28% of researchers worldwide, women “also tend to have more limited access to funding than men and to be less represented in prestigious universities and among senior faculty, which puts them at a further disadvantage in high-impact publishing,” the report observes. Read more here…

Microaggressions Matter

by Simba Runyowa, theatlantic.com, September 18, 2015
When I was studying at Oberlin College, a fellow student once compared me to her dog.

Because my name is Simba, a name Americans associate with animals, she unhelpfully shared that her dog’s name was also Simba. She froze with embarrassment, realizing that her remark could be perceived as debasing and culturally insensitive.

It’s a good example of what social-justice activists term microaggressions—behaviors or statements that do not necessarily reflect malicious intent but which nevertheless can inflict insult or injury. Read more here…

In Search of Diversity in the Biomedical Sciences

by Caleph B. Wilson, chroniclevitae.com, November 12, 2015
Since the 1990s, the federal government has created many programs in the biomedical sciences aimed at increasing the number of Ph.D.s from underrepresented minority groups. And in fact, many leading universities now produce Ph.D.s and train postdocs from these groups. So why, then, are these same universities not hiring faculty in significant numbers from this collective pool of minority scientists?

Are these job candidates qualified to be trained yet somehow not qualified, or productive enough, to be hired? Read more here…

Racial Disparities in Higher Education: an Overview

by Beckie Supiano, chronicle.com, November 10, 2015
Racism on American campuses is a matter of national concern again this week following protests at the University of Missouri at Columbia that led on Monday to the resignations of both the campus’s chancellor and the system’s president…. While the situation in Missouri is dramatic, and the protests there particularly successful, racial tensions have flared up on several campuses in the past year.

Those events draw attention to continuing racial disparities in higher education, where African-Americans make up a small portion of professors, presidents, and selective-college enrollments. Let’s take a look at some relevant data…