Mihai’s outreach efforts

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.

I have signed up as an ally at Black in Computing and Black Women in Computational Biology. I am interested in serving as a mentor and/or ally to scientists from groups underrepresented in computer science and academia more broadly.

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.

Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS). I have served as a member of the CMNS Council for Diversity and Inclusion – a group of faculty, staff, and students advising the dean of our college on diversity and inclusion-related issues. During fall 2022, I am chairing the search committee for the first Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion in our colleges – position created in part due to the advocacy of the members of the council.

Terp Allies. 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 at the time, 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.

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, as well as with the generous support of the National Science Foundation.

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. Several students have spent time in my lab over the past years, Shilpa Roy, Abbe Miller, and Tracy Nguyen, Wendy Wu, and Chinaza Ezinne. Nishat Olayiwola has joined the lab for AY 2022-2023.

K-12 summer camps. The Iribe Initiative for Diversity and Inclusion runs summer camps for students as young as 4th grade and I plan to become more involved with this program in the future. My first experience teaching kids 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.

Participation in diversity-oriented conferences. First, let me stress that I am surprised at how few faculty members, particularly how few tenure-track/tenured faculty, attend diversity-focused conferences. While my colleagues who don’t are missing out on great opportunities, their absence is also sending the message that diversifying the scientific community is not a priority for them. It’s hard to square this implicit statement with the various explicit positions people have taken by signing various petitions or tweeting or blogging in support of this or that cause. Change will only happen if everybody does their part.

Here are some of the conferences I have (or will soon) attend:
ABRCMS 2018, 2020, 2021, 2022
Tapia 2020, 2021, 2022

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