Diversity matters to me. As I progress in my career, I am increasingly seeking opportunities to foster a diverse and inclusive environment within the University and within the scientific community. Below I outline several of my recent activities.
Diversity and Inclusion Committee in the CS department. Since 2014, my department has formally appointed a committee tasked with coordinating activities aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion among our students, faculty, and staff. I have been a member of this committee since its inception, and chaired the committee until spring 2019.
Terp Allies. Over the past year I have participated in the Terp Allies program – a program that uses short skits to demonstrate different biases found in academia, promote discussion, and describe strategies bystanders can take.
Organized session at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). Together with Jackie Meisel, a postdoctoral fellow in my lab, I organized a short session introducing metagenomic research to participants at ABRCMS 2018. The meeting itself was inspirational – while helping judge posters and attending oral presentations by undergraduate students I was blown away by the strong research presented and by the enthusiasm and maturity of the presenters. In November 2019 I’m attending ABRCMS again.
Computational Biology Summer Internship.In 2009 I helped start, with financial support from the NSF, the summer internship program at the University of Maryland Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB). This program continues to this day, with the help of many of the faculty and students from the CBCB.
Mentoring high school students. Over the past few years I have become involved with the science and technology program at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, hosting students for their senior year research practicum requirement. Three students have spent time in my lab over the past three years, Shilpa Roy, Abbe Miller, and Tracy Nguyen, and a new student, Wendy Wu is spending AY 2019-2020 in the lab.
CompSci Connect. Last year I gave a presentation in the summer camp middle-schoolers – CompSci Connect – and I plan to become more involved with this program in the future. My first experience was quite humbling – while I thought I knew a thing or two about teaching, I had a very hard time engaging with middle-schoolers even as I had brought what I thought would be a great hands-on activity. I’ll hopefully be better prepared the second time around. During summer 2019, the outreach program was extended to include elementary school children, and I gave presentations on genome assembly to three groups of kids.