Engineering Diversity

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  • TRACKING PROGRESS
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  • WHAT WORKS
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ENGINEERING DIVERSITY

ENGINEERING DIVERSITY

Biomedical Engineering workforce diversity, capitalizing on the full spectrum of skills, talents, and viewpoints, is essential for solving complex human health challenges. The participation of underrepresented individuals in engineering and medicine is a critical issue affecting our nation’s health and the future of research. The urgent national challenge to diversify the scientific workforce calls for research universities, academic medical centers, and national stakeholders to take action.

Women receive only 39.7% of Ph.D.’s in Biomedical Engineering. (2018)

The American Society for Engineering Education 

 

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African Americans make up 2.1% of tenured/tenure-track faculty in biomedical engineering (2018).

The American Society for Engineering Education

The gender wage gap is within 3% for women in biomedical engineering.

–2016 American Community Survey, US Census Bureau

Connecting donated human lungs to pigs repaired damage to the organs, scientists report
Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic | July 13, 2020

Connecting donated human lungs to pigs repaired damage to the organs, scientists report
Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic | July 13, 2020

For people who need a lung transplant, the wait is often prolonged by the frustrating fact that most donor organs have to be discarded: Only 20% of donated lungs meet medical criteria for transplantation, translating into far fewer organs than people on waiting lists. Now, a team of researchers has shown they might be able to salvage more of these lungs by borrowing a pig’s circulatory system.

Delicate lungs recovered from donors are typically connected to perfusion machines that keep oxygen and nutrients flowing to maintain viability, but that works for only about six hours, not long enough for often-injured lung tissue to recover before the organ fails.

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A urine test for lung cancer? Nanosensors make it possible
Sangeeta Bhatia | July 10, 2020

A urine test for lung cancer? Nanosensors make it possible
Sangeeta Bhatia | July 10, 2020

Harvard and MIT researchers teamed up to develop a novel screening test that could identify lung cancer a lot earlier and easier than current methods. The test detects lung cancer using nanoprobes, which send out reporter molecules that are picked up on urine analysis. This breakthrough, which is more sensitive than CT and delivers on a proof-of-concept experiment originally proposed in 2017, was recently detailed in a study published in Science Translational Medicine.

“What if you had a detector that was so small that it could circulate in your body, find the tumor all by itself, and send a signal to the outside world?” asked lead author Sangeeta Bhatia, MD, PhD, at a 2016 TED Talk. “It sounds a little like science fiction. But actually, nanotechnology allows us to do just that.

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Dr. Cato T. Laurencin’s COVID-19 Mask Solution Coming to Market
Cato Laurencin | July 2, 2020

Dr. Cato T. Laurencin’s COVID-19 Mask Solution Coming to Market
Cato Laurencin | July 2, 2020

Within six weeks of announcing a successful method to fabricate custom-fit mask frames to optimize protection from the spread of COVID-19, UConn has a licensing deal with a Connecticut manufacturer to produce them.

Connecticut Biotech, a startup company headquartered in South Windsor, aims to start marketing, manufacturing, and distributing 3D-printed mask frames under the brand Secure Fit this month.

“This is an important technology that can help a lot of people by providing a specific way to make regular surgical masks more protective,” says Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, CEO of the Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering. “It’s wonderful to see technology that started here in the state of Connecticut being developed by a Connecticut company.

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Human element shouldn’t be neglected with AI
Elizabeth Krupinski | June 25, 2020

Human element shouldn’t be neglected with AI
Elizabeth Krupinski | June 25, 2020

Sure, artificial intelligence (AI) in radiology is cool. But it’s not enough to show results in a lab; the technology’s real-world impact on efficacy and efficiency also needs to be evaluated, according to a June 25 talk at the virtual annual meeting of the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM).

It’s also crucial to ascertain how radiology AI affects radiologists’ perception, cognition, human factors, and workflow, according to Elizabeth Krupinski, PhD, of Emory University.

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Calcium helps build strong cells
Kris Dahl | June 19, 2020

Calcium helps build strong cells
Kris Dahl | June 19, 2020

Every time you flex your bicep or stretch your calf muscle, you put your cells under stress. Every move we make throughout the day causes our cells to stretch and deform. But this cellular deformation can be dangerous, and could potentially lead to permanent damage to the DNA in our cells, and even cancer. So how is it that we’re able to keep our bodies moving without constantly destroying our cells? Thanks to a new study by Carnegie Mellon University Chemical Engineering (ChemE) Professor Kris Noel Dahl, and Associate Professor Sara Wickström of the University of Helsinki, we now know that the answer lies in a humble mineral we consume every day.

“Basically, every time we flex a muscle, we’re risking DNA damage that could lead to cancer,” says Dahl. “Or we would be, that is, if it weren’t for the calcium in our cells.”

Their recent paper published in Cell marks the first time that researchers have definitively shown how cells maintain their structural integrity despite the strain of mechanical forces.

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What Can We Do to Combat Anti-Black Racism in the Biomedical Research Enterprise?
NIH

What Can We Do to Combat Anti-Black Racism in the Biomedical Research Enterprise?
NIH

The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, in addition to the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on African Americans, are wrenching reminders of the many harms that societal racism, inequality, and injustice inflict on the Black community. These injustices are rooted in centuries of oppression—including slavery and Jim Crow, redlining, school segregation, and mass incarceration—that continue to influence American life, including the biomedical research enterprise. Despite leading an NIH Institute whose mission includes building a diverse scientific workforce, at NIGMS we’ve struggled with what an adequate response to this moment would be, knowing that the systems that mediate the distinct and disparate burdens Black students, postdocs, and scientists face are complex and often aren’t easily moved with the urgency that they demand. With that in mind, below we share thoughts on what each of us who is in the majority or in a position of power can do to help break the cycles of racial disparities that are woven into the fabric of the biomedical research enterprise and that limit opportunities Link to external web site for Black scientists Link to external web site.

Institutional structures, policies, and cultures Link to external web site, including those in the biomedical research enterprise, all contribute to racial inequality and injustice. This fact was laid bare for us by the responses to the request for information (RFI) we issued in 2018 on strategies to enhance successful postdoctoral career transitions to promote faculty diversity. Respondents cited bias and discrimination—including racism—most frequently as a key barrier to postdoctoral researchers attaining independent faculty positions.

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Combating sexual harassment
Science

Combating sexual harassment
Science

Sexual harassment, including gender harassment, presents an unacceptable barrier that prevents women from achieving their rightful place in science, and robs society and the scientific enterprise of diverse and critical talent. As the largest single funder of biomedical research in the world, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) bears a responsibility to take action to put an end to this behavior. In 2019, the NIH began to bolster its policies and practices to address and prevent sexual harassment. This included new communication channels to inform the agency of instances of sexual harassment related to NIH-funded research. This week, the NIH announces a change that will hold grantee institutions and investigators accountable for this misconduct, to further foster a culture whereby sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviors are not tolerated in the research and training environment.

Last year, an Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) of the NIH presented a report and recommendations to end sexual harassment. A major theme of this report was the need for increased transparency and accountability in the reporting of professional misconduct, especially sexual harassment. The cases of sexual harassment that surfaced in the wake of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) 2018 report highlighted a substantial gap in the NIH’s oversight of the research enterprise: There was no straightforward mechanism for the agency to learn of sexual harassment or other misconduct taking place at grantee institutions in the context of NIH-funded research. It was not uncommon for the NIH to discover such cases through the media, amid rightful public outcry. Holding institutions and investigators accountable for this behavior was challenging.

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White Academia: Do Better.
Medium

White Academia: Do Better.
Medium

Over the past couple of weeks, our nation has been confronted with ugly truths and hard history revealing how systemic racism rears its head in almost every space. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down our typical lifestyles, people seem to be listening.

This moment feels very different from other situations when we had to address human rights in the context of race relations in the United States. With that comes a host of emotions that White people have rarely had to deal with because of their racial privilege, and this includes White people working in academia.

Like many Black faculty, and Black people in general, I have received messages and texts from White colleagues apologizing, expressing their guilt and remorse, and asking what they can do to support their Black colleagues and friends.

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Guidelines for Diversity & Inclusion in Crisis
Juan E. Gilbert, PhD

Guidelines for Diversity & Inclusion in Crisis
Juan E. Gilbert, PhD

I am writing these guidelines in response to the recent events that have impacted the Black community, specifically, the Black computing community. As the Department Chair of the Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE) Department at the University of Florida, I lead, one of, if not, the nation’s most diverse computing sciences (CS) department. We have the nation’s most Black CS faculty and PhD students. We are one of the top CS departments for the number of female faculty. As a researcher, I have had the honor of producing the nation’s most Black/African-American CS PhDs. I have also had the honor of hiring and promoting the most Black faculty in CS. My experiences span more than 20 years and those experiences are the foundation for these guidelines.

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Scientists around the world are striking against racism in academia
New Scientist

Scientists around the world are striking against racism in academia
New Scientist

Scientists around the world are striking to raise awareness of institutional and systemic racism against Black academics. This event comes in conjunction with widespread protests against police violence after the killing of George Floyd, who died on 25 May after a Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground by his neck.

The strike was organised by a group of academics, many of them physicists and astronomers based in the US, and promoted on social media with the hashtags #ShutDownAcademia, #ShutDownSTEM and #Strike4BlackLives. The organisers are encouraging academics across STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields to take the day away from their normal research and instead spend it educating themselves on racial disparities in their field and taking action against racial violence and discrimination. At least 5000 academics based at universities from around the world have joined the course.

“As academics, we do not exist in a vacuum and it is important to recognise the current events: Black members of our communities are being harassed and lynched with little to no consequence, as well as being disproportionately affected by the current pandemic,” says Tien-Tien Yu, a particle physicist at the University of Oregon who has helped organise the event through the Particles for Justice group. “We need to acknowledge that this takes a toll on the well-being of Black academics and that Black Lives Matter.

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