The Derosa Lab has a strong commitment to actively promoting and upholding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within our chemical community and beyond. Topics are routinely discussed within our group, along with outreach activities and tangible efforts to have a positive impact on our society.
Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (written by JD)
The importance of diversity in any societal setting cannot be emphasized enough. In the scientific community, great strides are being made toward initiatives involving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) but there is still an immense amount of work to be done. Key goals associated with making noticeable progress on this scale are innumerable and far-reaching; however, my prior commitments to DEI initiatives reverberate the importance of the following: (1) widespread accessibility for students through diverse resource management, (2) integration of routine educational modules designed to raise awareness of DEI-related topics, and (3) prioritization of participating and founding community-based outreach activities.
Providing diverse resources to accommodate a broad range of students from different backgrounds is vital to improving equity and inclusion in their career developments. As a first-generation Italian-American born and raised in New York City, diversity was critical to my upbringing and development from a very early age. Embracing the cultural melting pot of the inner city through my close friends and their collective perspectives was beneficial not only for my personal growth, but to understand systemic mistreatment. In my sophomore year at the City College of NY (CCNY), I became a member of a budding non-profit organization called Latin Youth for Higher Education Program (LYHEP). We were a small task force of about 5 people at the time, which gave me direct insight on methods for fundraising and raising general awareness to bolster inclusion and equity for underrepresented and underprivileged youth in the Harlem, NY area.
The acknowledgment of disparities by striving to provide adequate resources for every student to succeed and feel part of a safe and accepting environment is only one small step forward. A staggering number of minority students interested in STEM careers are discouraged by the lack of exposure to role models in the field that are immediately relatable in terms of cultural background, gender identity, sexual preference, or disability, for example. In my third year of graduate school at Scripps Research, I co-organized the Distinguished Lecture Series (DLS). We proposed a diversity nomination requirement and were ecstatic to see a marked increase in enthusiasm from the student body. As a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech, I volunteered to be part of the inaugural class of DEI Coordinators as part of a department-wide initiative to promote DEI initiatives and improve the campus-wide environment. Over the last three years as DEI Coordinator for the Peters group, I have learned many effective tools for communicating and teaching DEI-related misconceptions and ways to improve. For example, one valuable addition to campus-wide seminars has been the strong preference for a “DEI Moment” to be included, which is meant to rapidly convey a DEI-related subject. This DEI Moment can be on a variety of topics, from featuring a scientist to sharing a personal experience. As a professor, I will also strongly recommend that students and trainees participate in such practices. In our group meetings, DEI will be a regularly scheduled meeting topic. Habitual discussions will revolve around literature presentations, biosketches, and historical information.
Community-based outreach will be a high priority for me and my trainees. In graduate school, I served as the Outreach Coordinator. Over the years, I was involved with organizing lab tours for high school students and teachers, as well as undergraduate students from a range of underrepresented backgrounds. Outreach programs that offer funded research internships are another avenue in which my research group will contribute immensely to DEI. Programs such as the Life Science Summer Institute (LSSI) for outstanding high school students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) are fantastic opportunities. I was honored to have mentored students in both programs as a graduate student. In my research group, these types of mentorship experiences will be central to the representative experience of my trainees.
The effect of diversity, equity, and inclusion in science parallels the magnanimous advantage it has in broader society – scientific diversity and inclusion brings a culmination of perspective and experience that is far greater than the sum of its parts. Continuing to support these efforts and bring forth new initiatives will be a high priority of mine, and of my research group. By providing widely accessible resources, raising awareness of DEI-related challenges and achievements, and having strong participation in community-based outreach, our goal will be to expand a safe inclusive environment in the scientific community and beyond.
The Derosa Lab is always looking for new opportunities to take part in amplifying DEI-related initiatives in the broader community. Please feel free to contact us, and we would be happy to compare notes on our respective efforts with new collaborative possibilities.
Office Phone: 1-617-358-1393