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.