Personal Statement on Diversity:
I believe that it is important to promote the inclusion of diverse persons in the STEM disciplines and that I have the ability to influence the people and culture around me to that end. While there are social and moral imperatives to promote diversity, I also believe that diverse groups promote enhanced problem solving and creativity – a crucial part of enhancing learning and innovation environments, especially in STEM fields. Diversity comes in as many forms as there are types of people, and I believe that the heart of promoting diversity is learning to understand and appreciate those different from ourselves. As a professor, I will seek to promote diversity in my spheres of influence and will actively promote the creation of spaces and environments that are safe for every person, regardless of their differences.
I am aware that a diverse range of opinions exist regarding the practice of promoting diversity itself; oftentimes it is a topic that can carry political charge with it, depending on the person and region. My observation is that those who oppose actively promoting diversity fear that doing so will come at the expense of rewarding competence. I can be sensitive to those sentiments, but I can also express with confidence the importance of rewarding competence while also accounting for the challenges that one has overcome to achieve their competence. It is in holding this balance that having a holistic view of diversity is important – accounting for diversity in as many of its forms as possible to create a culture where any person can succeed, no matter their age, race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, past experiences, or worldview.
Past Contributions to Promote Diversity & Inclusion
I am thankful to have had the opportunity to participate in promoting diversity within my own field in numerous ways throughout my educational career. As an undergraduate student at the University of Cincinnati, I volunteered extensively as a mathematics tutor at local inner-city elementary schools through the Bearcat Buddies program. I worked with primarily African-American students and encouraged them to see themselves as people who could go to college someday. As a graduate student, I have had the opportunity to create and lead numerous optical science demonstrations at events in the College Station area that seek to educate and inspire the next generation of women scientists and engineers, specifically. Every year I have been at Texas A&M, I have taken a leading role in organizing demonstrations for the BioPhysics Saturday program where we teach middle and high school girls about optical technologies used in medicine and biology.
My research has been fundamentally inclusive as well, both in its scope and application. The purpose of my dissertation research is to improve access to medical care for malaria, a disease that disproportionately affects rural African, Asian, and Latino populations. The undergraduates I have employed in my research include students from America, Africa, and Iran; male and female; and from a variety of socioeconomic and religious backgrounds. I have been heavily involved in research for PATHS-UP, an NSF-funded venture seeking to create monitoring technologies for chronic cardiovascular disease and diabetes in underrepresented communities. Through PATHS-UP I have participated in numerous training sessions in which I have learned how to actively promote diversity. I have also had the opportunity to mentor latin(x) high-school students in our lab, teaching them research skills. My favorite activity with them was initiating and teaching a series of seminar for these students training them how to apply to colleges and to conduct successful interviews.
Plans for Future Contributions
As a professor I will seek to appreciate all individuals, actively avoid discrimination, and seek to create diverse and vibrant environments that are safe for all whether in the classroom, laboratory, or broader university environment. I plan to continue in service that promotes the flourishing of underrepresented populations in my own field, much as I have in my past. My convictions have at their heart the appreciation of all individuals, and I will seek to promote diversity while simultaneously always creating a culture that never ceases to encourage and promote competence in all.