Gaining Experience Mentoring for Diversity
I am at a point in my academic research career where I am taking on more and more mentees. As a mentor – one of the roles I love most in this career – I want to create an environment in my lab where everyone is welcome. Diversity comes in many forms, and I really want to support people in their individual journeys through science and medicine.
My challenge has been: how do I as a mentor, let people know I am very interested in promoting diversity and having all kinds of people come to my lab to work?
To attract diverse candidates to my group, I have participated in some really excellent programs. I highly recommend everyone who is interested get involved. In order to attract and recruit diverse candidates to my research group, I put myself out there and get involved in as many ways as I can. Here are some approaches I have taken:
Local Summer Research Programs – One of the first things I did was to reach out to my school’s Medical Scientist Training Program letting them know I was interested in being a mentor for their summer program. Many graduate programs have a similar summer program for undergraduates with a wide range of scientific interests, and some programs may prioritize participants from historically underrepresented backgrounds. Additionally, most of the students in these programs are fully-supported by the program and receive additional mentoring outside the lab.
National Symposia – Your scientific society may have mentoring symposia at their national meeting or other time during the year. Recently, I participated in the Yale Intersections Science Fellowship symposium (www.intersectionssciencefellows.com). This was a wonderful experience. The symposium, intended for postdoctoral fellows, is focused on enhancing diversity in science throughout the country, and is organized very much like a scientific conference with presentations and informal or formal meetings. Faculty can volunteer to judge posters, to be a faculty mentor, or meet 1:1 with a fellow.
Social Media – I use Twitter as a resource for maintaining connections with the greater community of early career scientists, but also to keep in touch with the individual mentees I meet through national meetings or lab rotations.
NIH Diversity Supplements – These offerings don’t help you find candidates, but they can fully support candidates you already have in your lab or who want to join your lab. Periodically, NIH will announce administrative supplements that can be tacked onto your active primary grant. These applications are relatively quick to put together, receive a quick administrative review, and a quick response. Funds are often given out until the money is gone.
Having a diverse research group is so important to me. These are some of the ways in which I have tried to enhance diversity in my group. Please feel free to share your thoughts and other ideas.