Science Beyond the SciLi: Representation in Science

Though this is Science Beyond the SciLi, the issue of representation permeates the walls of the SciLi, the greater Brown campus and the rest of the scientific world. Read on to learn about some students’ perspectives on representation within the scientific community, from the SciLi basement to the Nobel Committee.


Last weekend, the Brown Political Forum held a community forum to discuss “Representation in Science,” in collaboration with the Neuroscience DUG. A panel of five students, the “conversation starters,” reflected on their experiences in different fields of science at Brown and beyond through the perspective of their identities. The attendees also had the chance to break into small groups to discuss these issues and share personal experiences.

While minority groups, including women, racial minorities and members of the LGBT community, are underrepresented and disadvantaged in many fields, the statistics in science are particularly grim. Hispanics make up 7 percent of the STEM workforce, and blacks make up 6 percent. Women hold a quarter of STEM jobs, and in many fields this number is actually declining. I could go on and on listing the cold hard facts, but students’ personal stories are just as telling.

At the forum, the student panelists recalled experiences of professors and peers making judgments based solely on their identity.

Katie Byron was intending to declare computational biology as one of her concentrations, and she went to the concentration fair to discuss this with a faculty member. He responded, “Are you sure you’re up for taking all those math classes? Have you thought about just doing pure bio?” While the professor may have thought little of this afterwards, these kinds of comments are internalized and can bend the trajectories of students pursuing science.

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A Cool Thing You Shouldn’t Miss: Class at Brown and Beyond


This Saturday at 2:00 p.m.., several students will crowd the Crystal Room at Alumnae Hall to voice their opinions on class at Brown. The event — what Brown Political Forum founder Ben Resnik ’15 deems less coat-and-tie, more town hall — is the first of a new Community Forum series.

The event adopts the term “community forum” from the open discussion President Paxson hosted at Alumnae Hall following New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly’s canceled lecture last fall. Viveka Hulyalkar ’15, a chair of the Community Forum, said “the magnitude of the dissonance [on campus] was underestimated. There’s a huge demand for an opportunity to bring these pockets of consensus together and get in each other’s faces about the stuff that really tears us apart.”

The Community Forum will start with class, as the chairs feel that class on college campuses has become not only a hot-button issue at Brown but also a once-hushed subject that is now considered nationally. The event will feature several student speakers who Resnik said are known and respected figures on campus. But, the audience truly makes up the core of the forum.

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