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ENGINEERING DIVERSITY

 

Black/African American and Latinx prime-age adults are roughly a third (33 percent) of the adult population, but just 15 percent of engineers.  They continue to lag in terms of admissions to engineering programs, completion of degrees, occupational penetration, and tenure in engineering jobs.

Women are also underrepresented and underpaid in engineering. Women represent a little less than half of the employed prime-age population, but they only represent 16 percent of engineers. Women’s representation in engineering occupations has been improving, but barely.

 

 

Black/African American and Latinx engineers have lower levels of educational attainment than other engineers, but even when they have equal education, they are paid less.

 

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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

8% of university presidents are Black/African American.

— 2016 American Council on Education

Locascio Nominated to Return to NIST as Director
Laurie Locascio | July 22, 2021

Locascio Nominated to Return to NIST as Director
Laurie Locascio | July 22, 2021

President Biden announced on July 16 that he is nominating Laurie Locascio to be director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a $1 billion agency within the Commerce Department. Locascio spent most of her career at NIST, joining as a bioengineering researcher in 1986 and ultimately taking on a series of senior leadership roles before leaving the agency in 2017. Since then, she has been vice president for research at the Baltimore and College Park campuses of the University of Maryland.

Pending her confirmation by the Senate, Locascio will return to the agency at a moment when its responsibilities are expanding and lawmakers are proposing it play a substantial role in national innovation initiatives currently under consideration in Congress. The Biden administration is likewise taking a significant interest in NIST, proposing to expand its budget by 45% in the next fiscal year.

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A noninvasive test to detect cancer cells and pinpoint their location
Sangeeta Bhatia | July 15, 2021

A noninvasive test to detect cancer cells and pinpoint their location
Sangeeta Bhatia | July 15, 2021

Most of the tests that doctors use to diagnose cancer — such as mammography, colonoscopy, and CT scans — are based on imaging. More recently, researchers have also developed molecular diagnostics that can detect specific cancer-associated molecules that circulate in bodily fluids like blood or urine.

MIT engineers have now created a new diagnostic nanoparticle that combines both of these features: It can reveal the presence of cancerous proteins through a urine test, and it functions as an imaging agent, pinpointing the tumor location. In principle, this diagnostic could be used to detect cancer anywhere in the body, including tumors that have metastasized from their original locations.

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Interdisciplinary team researches potential treatments for intervertebral disc disease
Lori Setton | July 13, 2021

Interdisciplinary team researches potential treatments for intervertebral disc disease
Lori Setton | July 13, 2021

Intervertebral discs provide load support and motion between vertebrae in the spine, but when they start to break down and compress due to aging, disease or injury, a person experiences significant pain and reduced mobility. An interdisciplinary team of researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found a way to deliver new cells to the cushioning material in intervertebral discs that may restore their height, which could reduce pain and improve mobility.

Lori Setton, the Lucy & Stanley Lopata Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering, led a team of biomedical engineering researchers in the McKelvey School of Engineering and researchers from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in the School of Medicine to develop a hydrogel modified with peptides that control cell attachment and cell fate.

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Opening Blood-Brain Barrier with Focused Ultrasound
Elisa Konofagou | July 10, 2021

Opening Blood-Brain Barrier with Focused Ultrasound
Elisa Konofagou | July 10, 2021

Ultrasound is typically synonymous with prenatal care, but soon an emerging platform called focused ultrasound could treat cancer.

In a new clinical trial, oncologists Stergios Zacharoulis, MD, professor of pediatrics at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons, and Cheng-Chia Wu, MD, PhD, assistant professor of radiation oncology, are using a focused ultrasound technique developed by Elisa Konofagou, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering and radiology at Columbia Engineering to more effectively and safely deliver chemotherapy for pediatric patients with an aggressive type of brain cancer, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). The new technique works to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier, a natural protective layer in our brain, that blocks pathogens, bacteria, viruses, and other detrimental microoganisms circulating in the bloodstream from entering the central nervous system. The blood-brain barrier also limits the ability of systemic medications like chemotherapy from reaching brain tumors, making it a key challenge in effectively delivering therapies for brain tumors.

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NAACP to Present Prestigious Spingarn Medal to UConn’s Dr. Cato T. Laurencin at 112th Annual Convention
Cato Laurencin | July 6, 2021

NAACP to Present Prestigious Spingarn Medal to UConn’s Dr. Cato T. Laurencin at 112th Annual Convention
Cato Laurencin | July 6, 2021

Professor Cato T. Laurencin of the University of Connecticut is the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Spingarn Medal, the highest honor of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

“This is the most iconic award of the NAACP,” says Laurencin, who serves as the University Professor and Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Professor of Chemical Engineering, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UConn.

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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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