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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

How sound waves trigger immune responses to cancer in mice
Zhen Xu | January 31, 2023

How sound waves trigger immune responses to cancer in mice
Zhen Xu | January 31, 2023

When noninvasive sound waves break apart tumors, they trigger an immune response in mice. By breaking down the cell wall “cloak,” the treatment exposes cancer cell markers that had previously been hidden from the body’s defenses, researchers at the University of Michigan have shown.

The technique developed at Michigan, known as histotripsy, offers a two-prong approach to attacking cancers: the physical destruction of tumors via sound waves and the kickstarting of the body’s immune response. It could potentially offer medical professionals a treatment option for patients without the harmful side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.

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How to make hydrogels more injectable
Jennifer Lewis | January 31, 2023

How to make hydrogels more injectable
Jennifer Lewis | January 31, 2023

Gel-like materials that can be injected into the body hold great potential to heal injured tissues or manufacture entirely new tissues. Many researchers are working to develop these hydrogels for biomedical uses, but so far very few have made it into the clinic.

To help guide in the development of such materials, which are made from microscale building blocks akin to squishy LEGOs, MIT and Harvard University researchers have created a set of computational models to predict the material’s structure, mechanical properties, and functional performance outcomes. The researchers hope that their new framework could make it easier to design materials that can be injected for different types of applications, which until now has been mainly a trial-and-error process.

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Accurate integrated imaging and projection system for oral cancer diagnosis
Rebecca Richards-Kortum | January 19, 2023

Accurate integrated imaging and projection system for oral cancer diagnosis
Rebecca Richards-Kortum | January 19, 2023

Oral cancer is a globally prevalent disease with an astonishingly low five-year survival rate of less than 50%. A key factor for its poor prognosis is delayed diagnosis resulting in more late-stage oral cancers. At these later stages, treatment becomes less effective and harsher on the body. Hence, many scientists aim to develop and improve diagnostic techniques for the early detection of oral cancer. At present, the gold standard for the diagnosis of most oral cancers is biopsy of suspicious oral lesions and pathologic analysis of the extracted small amounts of tissue. However, it is extremely important that clinicians biopsy the areas within the abnormal lesion with the worst disease. Currently, the decision whether or not to perform a biopsy, and the optimal biopsy site, are based on clinical examination, which greatly depends upon the experience of the examining clinician. To help identify high-risk regions, clinicians can also use commercially available imaging techniques based on autofluorescence to detect abnormal tissue at the macroscopic level, although current autofluorescence technologies suffer from low specificity for neoplastic disease.

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University of Toronto scientists use machine learning to fast-track drug formulation development
Christine Allen | January 10, 2023

University of Toronto scientists use machine learning to fast-track drug formulation development
Christine Allen | January 10, 2023

Scientists at the University of Toronto have successfully tested the use of machine learning models to guide the design of long-acting injectable drug formulations. The potential for machine learning algorithms to accelerate drug formulation could reduce the time and cost associated with drug development, making promising new medicines available faster.

The study was published today in Nature Communications and is one of the first to apply machine learning techniques to the design of polymeric long-acting injectable drug formulations.

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Mechanism Behind Osteoarthritis Could Lead to New Treatments
Fabrisia Ambrosio | January 10, 2023

Mechanism Behind Osteoarthritis Could Lead to New Treatments
Fabrisia Ambrosio | January 10, 2023

Researchers in the United States and Japan have discovered a new mechanism that links age-related cartilage tissue stiffening with the repression of a key protein associated with longevity. These findings enhance the understanding of mechanisms that lead to the deterioration of joints that causes osteoarthritis, according to the authors of a new study, published January 10th in Nature Communications.

In the study, researchers showed that increased stiffening of the extracellular matrix – a network of proteins and other molecules that surround and support tissues in the body – led to a decrease in a so-called “longevity protein” called Klotho (α-Klotho) in knee cartilage brought about by epigenetic changes. This Klotho decrease then damaged the cells in healthy cartilage called chondrocytes. Conversely, exposing aged chondrocytes to a softer extracellular matrix restored the knee cartilage to a more youthful state.

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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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