Faculty with Primary Appointments in Neuroscience
Joseph Takahashi, Ph.D.
As a Japanese-American who was born in Tokyo, Japan and lived much of my childhood overseas, I experienced global diversity first hand, and the communities in which I lived were extremely diverse, ranging from Burma, Italy and Pakistan. This international experience exposed me to many cultures, ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic status levels. My parents were extremely open-minded and had diverse, multicultural friends from all over the globe including Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. So, for me personally as a child, I was not really aware of racism. Upon moving to live in the United States first at the age of eight and later at the age of 12, my immediate environment in the Washington, D.C. suburbs was quite different. I was always only one of two or three Asians in my schools, and I came to realize that I was different, at least on the outside. Since I was still a "curiosity" back in those days, I did not really face racism, but did experience name calling and derogatory comments such as "Jap" or "Chink" from people who I did not know. My mother who was Japanese also did not really experience racism except ironically in San Francisco, where in the fifties and sixties, Asians were treated similar to African Americans, and were required to ride in the back of the bus. Of course, my dad who was a Japanese American born in San Francisco also felt this racism as a child, and indeed my father's entire family was sent to internment camp in 1942 along with about 120,000 other ethnically Japanese, who lost most of their property and possessions. After release from the "camps" in 1944, these Japanese Americans continued to face discrimination in housing, violence, vandalism and defacing of Japanese graves. Only many decades later was it acknowledged in 1976 by President Gerald Ford that the internment was "wrong and a national mistake which shall never again be repeated" and by a Congressional report in 1983 that the internment of Japanese was "unjust and motivated by racism and xenophobic ideas rather than factual military necessity."
Despite these racist acts on Japanese, they pale in comparison to slavery and the discriminatory treatment of African Americans that continues to this day. The events of May 2020 in which four African Americans were killed at the hands of police, punctuated by the murder of George Floyd, ignited a groundswell of emotion, despair, anger and frustration at the state of our country. Our faculty learned that many of our students, postdocs and staff feel and suffer from acts of racism on campus, and this led to a collective reawakening that we had to take a stand and act to fight against racism and discrimination in our community. I am very proud of my department for coming together in June 2020 to form a Working Group on Diversity and Equity in Neuroscience that represents all members of our department, holding a forum on Diversity and Equity in Neuroscience, and promoting the education of ourselves about the impact of racism, microaggressions and unconscious bias. Our efforts are a work in progress, but already strides are being made in recognizing racism on campus, bringing together disparate groups for coordinating the reporting procedures and offices for race-based discrimination, as well as, helping in the launch of unconscious bias training on campus.
As Chair of the Department of Neuroscience, I am deeply committed to support and promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Our department values diverse, multicultural individuals, viewpoints and values. We aspire to create a safe, welcoming, inclusive and nurturing space for all of our trainees, faculty and staff. A top priority of our department is to foster, train, recruit and retain creative scientists, especially women and underrepresented groups in STEM at the graduate, postgraduate and faculty levels. We strive to implement recruitment practices to reach a more diverse applicant pool and to foster a diverse community of scientists.
Maria Chahrour, Ph.D.
The Chahrour lab at the Eugene McDermott Center for Human Growth and Development and the Department of Neuroscience at UT Southwestern Medical Center is driven by its mission to better understand the mechanisms causing neurodevelopmental disorders and inform innovative therapies; central to our mission is training and mentoring scientific leaders in an inspiring and collaborative training environment.
We believe that diversity of people, backgrounds, ideas, and abilities is key to advancing science. Our diverse team of scientists and trainees welcome those from underrepresented groups in STEM. We foster an inclusive environment that values and supports our peers' customs, traditions, and the perspectives of people of different race, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, age, ability, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.
The entire team at the Chahrour lab is dedicated to promoting these values. We believe we have an obligation to lift up voices that have been marginalized in our field and to foster environments that are safe, welcoming, and enriching. Furthermore, we are committed to fighting racism, discrimination, and unconscious bias. We are active in demonstrating our values with tangible activities and time and effort commitment. We also believe that our commitment to diversity is an ongoing process, during which we seek to listen, educate ourselves, support, and be the agents of change to strengthen and enhance our lab, the university, and the scientific and academic systems broadly.
Carla Green, Ph.D.
The Green lab celebrates diversity. After growing up in a very homogeneous community, I first began interacting with people of many different cultures and backgrounds during graduate school. This was so interesting and enlightening to me at that time and I suddenly found myself learning about different areas of the US and many other countries. It was fascinating to me to learn about different traditions and cultures and to be exposed to many different types of world views. But more importantly, I found that this diversity resulted in better science. The broader the experience of the scientists, the more creative and rigorous was the science. Since those early days, I have focused on welcoming people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, all geographical locations, all religions, any sexual preference and all skin colors into my lab. I have had the honor of having students, technicians and postdocs from at least twenty different countries spend time in my laboratory. They have brought many different talents and ideas to my group and have greatly enriched my life and the science we have done together. I strongly believe that each individual has worth and great value and all are welcomed with open arms.
Jay Gibson, Ph.D.
The Gibson lab is dedicated to the study and training of brain neural circuits and their changes in autism mouse models. In this endeavor, we strive to respect, value, and celebrate diversity. We aim to recruit people of different cultures, races, gender, and sexual orientation. We believe diversity promotes a healthy work environment at the level of general mental wellness and also at the professional level where different viewpoints and abilities enhance creativity and rigor in science.
One important goal is to train social groups that historically have been suppressed in their ability to advance in scientific professions due to bias. Such underrepresented groups in STEM include women, immigrants, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, and Black, Indigenous, and people of color. But other groups, such as those defined by religion, are included as well. We will try to treat all people with respect and in a professional manner with the main goal to train people for STEM-related professions.
We acknowledge that we have implicit biases that we have to unlearn. We will try to learn about more confrontational bias in the form of microaggression and macroaggression; learning about implicit bias, and learning about other forms of discrimination. We will work to prevent the occurrence of any these forms of bias. We are open to the possibility that this will occur in the lab - either intentionally or unintentionally - and we will work to encourage people to report such incidents without fear of retribution. We will try to address such situations in a transparent, fair, and professional manner and will determine the lessons learned in going forward.
Ryan Hibbs, Ph.D.
Scientific discovery and rigor flourish when diverse perspectives are brought to bear on hard problems. When we talk about diversity, we mean race, gender, sexual preference, nationality, socioeconomics, ethnicity, and religious and political beliefs. Efforts to quantify the benefits of diversity to scientific research have found that the impact of publications correlates with the number of different ethnic groups among the authors. Moreover, people who have developed close relationships with someone from another country become more creative. We also see increasing diversity in science as a means for solving larger-scale challenges in society. For example, public distrust in science is increasing, especially among groups that are underrepresented in science. Increasing diversity in science functions to further increase diversity in science by offering visible examples of paths to that career, and the opposite is also true.
The motivations above are relevant across all research disciplines, and are important to us, but do not reflect the benefits that diversity brings to us daily in the lab. We feel simply that our professional and personal lives are made richer by surrounding ourselves with people from different backgrounds and with different philosophies. We love being surprised, and we appreciate being challenged, in what we formerly assumed everyone thought to be true. These surprises and challenges from colleagues in the lab can come in the form of an experimental result that we interpreted too narrowly and thereby missed the true implication. Or they may come in the form of unintentional but painfully awkward lack of cultural sensitivity that provides an opportunity for teaching and growth. We aim to actively cultivate a laboratory environment where these surprises and challenges are not brushed aside but rather are encouraged and investigated respectfully with open minds and hearts. Doing so takes effort and presents discomfort but yields innovative solutions and transformative personal and professional growth.
Simply put, working in the lab is so much more fun and rewarding when diverse perspectives are openly present. For those of us who are underrepresented in science, or who have lived and worked in a foreign country, or are in another non-majority group, we know how exhausting and lonely it can be. From those of us who just happen to be in a well-represented group at this moment and in this location, we are grateful for your effort, patience and dedication to this research team; we are stronger together.
Mark Henkemeyer, Ph.D.
I am passionate about creating an inclusive workplace that promotes and values excellence and diversity. I seek an environment where everyone in the laboratory, from any background, any race, any gender, or any lifestyle or orientation can come work, learn, and do the best and most rigorous scientific research possible.
Kim Huber, Ph.D.
The Huber lab's mission is to seek knowledge and discovery of mechanisms of brain development and function in health and disease and to do so in an environment that fosters curiosity, creativity, cooperation, rigor, integrity and innovation. We strive to establish a work environment where individuals from diverse backgrounds, walks of life, and experiences are respected, valued and listened to equally, and supported and elevated to be the best scientists they can be. We welcome all people, including those from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, national origins, genders and sexual orientations and believe that diversity in lab personnel brings unique perspectives and ideas to our group and fosters creativity and discovery.
We recognize that there are unconscious, conscious, learned and/or habitual biases that prevent or interfere with achieving equality and diversity of representation in STEM fields. To combat this, we seek awareness, question our views and attitudes and seek to unlearn any bias through unconscious bias training, as offered by the diversity and inclusion resources at UT Southwestern. We also work to actively foster a workplace of equality, diversity and inclusion by promoting awareness and educating others of potential biases we encounter.
To promote access and education for all budding scientists, Dr. Huber and her students participate in educational STEM activities with local public schools as well as the UT Southwestern SURF and STAR programs which provide research experiences for high school and undergraduate researchers from all backgrounds. We welcome diverse trainees into the lab, especially those from underrepresented minorities in the STEM field and invite you to join us in our journey of scientific discovery and collaboration.
Jane Johnson, Ph.D.
I am committed to facilitating and maintaining a research environment that incorporates researchers with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, recognizing that this approach will enhance the potential for innovative discoveries in neuroscience. As a senior faculty member, I have the opportunity to influence hiring within the department as well as my laboratory. I have experienced an increase in the percentage of female faculty over my tenure in the Neuroscience Department (previously the Basic Neuroscience Center) where I was the first female hired. I am pleased to report that we are now at 40% tenure-track female faculty in our department. I believe this gender diversity has influenced the generation of a positive and collaborative working environment. However, we have performed poorly in developing a racially diverse faculty. In addition to continuing to promote hiring of female faculty, I am committed to focusing on other underrepresented groups so all in Neuroscience and the institution can benefit from broader perspectives.
As a principle investigator of a neuroscience research laboratory, and mentor of junior faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and students at multiple levels, I strive to provide leadership and a positive learning environment for people from diverse backgrounds. I have trained over 30 pre-and post-doctoral fellows in my laboratory (~50% women, ~25% from underrepresented populations). Examples include a mentored K22 grantee who successfully transitioned to a tenure track Assistant Professor position (NINDS Career Transition Award to Promote Diversity in Neuroscience Research), and multiple previous graduate students funded through NIH diversity NRSAs who are now tenure-track Assistant Professors or leaders in pharmaceutical companies. My laboratory also hosts summer students from multiple programs to provide research experiences for these individuals, many of whom come from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical research fields. These programs include STARS (high school students), SURF (college undergraduate students), and Medical Student Research Fellowships. These efforts will hopefully feed forward, providing a cohort of young faculty with diverse perspectives and experiences to put towards future discoveries in neuroscience research.
Gena Konopka, Ph.D.
We believe that individuals who feel comfortable and safe in their environment, who are able to freely and fully express their ideas and individuality, and who enjoy the company of their fellow lab mates perform to their highest potential. Our goal is to build such an environment one person at a time.
The Konopka lab aims to build a community of individuals who aspire to contribute to scientific knowledge. We welcome individuals of all races/ethnicities, gender/non-gender identities, religions, socio-economic backgrounds, and those with any other unique trait or physical/mental attribute. We will not exclude anyone who wants to join our group based on any of those outward or perceived attributes. We will not tolerate behavior from individuals who contribute to a non-inclusive and negative atmosphere by discriminating in any way. We will educate all members of our group on issues of equality and equity so that everyone is exposed to new perspectives and how certain actions and statements can offend group members, even unintentionally. We believe that humans have the ability to change and we will promote active reflection on any perceived negative behavior.
We aspire to be anti-racist and to be allies with those who may be different from us in some way or have a different background. We will stand together to promote an anti-racist environment in our lab as well as in our larger community at work and home.
We will aspire to have free and open communication among all members, where every voice is heard, and where all opinions are respected. We support an equitable environment where contributions from each individual matters regardless of position or title.
We have hope that by focusing within and around ourselves that we can be effective in expanding diversity and equity throughout our community. We will continue to seek improved ways for increasing diversity and equity in our community through both active reflection and implementation of new approaches to make positive change.
Helmut Krämer, Ph.D.
Born in Germany where tuition was free, it was not too hard to make it to university, even as the kid of a working-class family. But once arrived, I often felt a step or two behind. It's not easy to get good answers, if you don't know what questions to ask. Who knew about the career boost from unpaid internships in good labs, or how keen most professors were to talk to you, if you just asked. So, it took a while to lose the occasional doubt about actually belonging there. And that in a place, where I didn't have to overcome bias based on language or skin color. From these experiences emerged a commitment to promote inclusion, equity and diversity as each of these contributes to the strength and success of our team.
Diversity has many dimensions. A few years ago, I noticed that my lab comprised members of Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish faith, all at the same time. Then, as now, we strive to create an environment that promotes cooperation without a need to deny individuality. Diversity in our lab with regard to religion, race, gender or socioeconomic status may have been most pronounced amongst the high school and undergraduate students that we host every summer in the context of the UT Southwestern STARS and SURF programs. Helping this diverse group of summer interns to explore careers in STEM-related fields and supporting their next steps in career development is among the most rewarding aspects of my career as a scientist.
We are not perfect. Recognizing and counteracting the effects of unconscious bias is not always straightforward. Learning where acceptable behavior ends and microaggressions start is an ongoing process. As we welcome trainees of different creeds and from groups underrepresented in STEM in our team, we are committed to overcome discrimination and to strive for an atmosphere of inclusion, equity and diversity.
Helen Lai, Ph.D.
The Lai Lab seeks to cultivate the next generation of scientists in a collaborative team atmosphere. We believe that bringing people together from a variety of interests and backgrounds leads to inspired and innovative science. We strive to foster a welcoming and respectful environment for everyone from all walks of life no matter what age, identity, culture, background, experience, status, ability, religion or opinion.
We pledge to work against the institutional preconceptions of what a scientist looks and acts like in academic science. To this end, we aim to educate ourselves about internal (implicit) and external (systemic) factors that hinder the growth of underrepresented groups and understand what specific steps we can take to counteract these factors. We will make every effort to recruit and retain a diverse community within the lab, Neuroscience Dept., and UTSW as a whole as well as highlight research from these diverse communities.
Underlying our approach is the general ethos that each person is a unique individual, with unique perspectives and experiences, and not some preconceived stereotype. We try to cultivate an atmosphere of respect and open listening, so others feel welcome and secure to communicate their ideas and feelings. We strive to create a growth mindset in the lab where individuals can identify their aspirations, cultivate their strengths, and thrive as scientists. Ultimately, we ask everyone to be their authentic selves and to treat each other with dignity and respect.
Brad Pfeiffer, Ph.D.
It is a sad truth that science still has significant gaps in representation and participation of certain groups. I am personally motivated to ensure equal opportunities and inclusion for all people, regardless of religion, ethnicity, race, gender, nationality, sexuality, or other characteristic. I believe that science - along with virtually all other worthwhile endeavors - is dramatically improved through the contribution of people with diverse backgrounds and experiences who can approach problems from unique perspectives. Thus, inclusivity is not only ethical and moral, but is also pragmatic if we wish to ensure that our science is not flawed due to limited scope or perspective.
I therefore actively seek to populate my lab with individuals from diverse backgrounds. In addition, I fully support initiatives to increase participation and inclusion of individuals from traditionally under-represented minority (URM) groups at all levels of science, including early education and active recruitment of URM students into science as well as clear, purposeful support of URM students, postdocs, and faculty who are currently performing research. My lab group holds monthly formal discussions on the difficult-to-talk-about topics of injustice and diversity. Beyond science, I actively support political candidates and initiatives that promote inclusivity and equality. I continue to seek ways to improve myself and my society with the hope that someday diversity statements will be unnecessary.
Todd Roberts, Ph.D.
Science is a team sport and creativity and diversity-of-thought are the engines that drive scientific discovery. The diverse backgrounds of the graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and research staff in my lab exemplify these ideals. We welcome trainees and scientists from every ethnic, socioeconomic and intellectual background. We strive to create a team-oriented culture that values scientific rigor and mutual respect; where all people can flourish, learn and contribute to scientific discovery. We maintain an equitable and inclusive lab environment that focuses on making important discoveries and also engages in community outreach and raising awareness of STEM careers to underrepresented communities.
My parents were each the first in their families to attend college. As I went through school, college, and eventually graduate school, it became increasingly clear to me how culturally challenging it must have been for them to pursue professional and scientific careers coming from families and communities that found little value in higher education. It also became increasingly clear how diversity and being close to people that have different backgrounds, perspectives and cultures helped me think about problems and solutions from different vantage points. Working to increase diversity and expand opportunities in science has been important throughout my career. As a graduate student in the late 1990's my now wife and I helped launch a program to attract community college students into scientific careers (ETEP program; Enhancing Research Training Opportunities for Ethnic Minority Students in Psychology). Through this program we recruited many students, directed their research projects and gave them hands-on experiences in conducting experiments and analyzing data. This early experience clarified how simply providing opportunities could change lives.
Now at UTSW, outreach and providing opportunities to diverse communities are essential aspects of scientific culture in my lab. Each summer we provide up to three paid positions for undergraduate and high school underrepresented minority students in the lab. Some of these students are recruited through the Science Teachers Access to Resources at Southwestern program (STARS), the undergraduates through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at UT Southwestern (SURF), through the Green Fellows Program or through direct contact with local high schools. As a mark of success of the training program in my lab, high school students working in the lab over the past several years are currently continuing their scientific training at prestigious universities around the country, including Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Notre Dame, and Washington University in St. Louis.
In addition to these internships, my lab provides several community outreach events/lectures per year. Each summer I provide separate lectures to students in the STARS and SURF programs and in the Fall a lecture to area high school teachers on the neurobiological basis of speech and language learning. Each Fall a postdoc in the lab provides a lecture to underrepresented minority high school students that are part of the UT Southwestern animal research training program. In January of each year we host lab tours and lectures to Black high school students as part of a STEM outreach program organized through UTSW's Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion. In the Spring we host interactive science booths at both a Science Saturday event at UTSW, which typical draws thousands of people, and also a booth at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in downtown Dallas to develop Brain Health and Brain Awareness. These science booths include an interactive program (designed by the awesome graduate students in the lab!!) where the public can listen to birdsongs and judge how well birds have imitated the song of their father. Through these programs we aim to educate and increase diversity in the scientific community and advance a culture of equity and diversity in the lab and at UTSW.
Dean Smith, M.D., Ph.D.
I have always been committed to advancing fairness, inclusion and equality in our society. It is impossible not to notice the lack of diversity in the ranks of professors at most major medical institutions including our own. I recognize that I come from a privileged background. My father was a psychiatrist and my mother was an ophthalmologist. However, my mother was trained and practiced in an age when there were few women in medicine, and faced and overcame discrimination as a woman in a male-dominated field. I see significant progress toward gender equality in medicine today, and indeed over half of our medical students are now women. Gender equality is advancing in our science departments, but has yet to approach parity. Ethnic diversity is not close to where it should, and needs to be, in medicine or science.
During my time at UT Southwestern, I have served as chairman of graduate admissions and promoted inclusion and diversity. We recruited outstanding students from all over the world. We made significant progress in recruiting Hispanic students to our program, but lag in our ability to recruit African American students. The number of applications we receive from this group is still very low, and ways to foster and promote science as a career at the high school and college level are needed. Over my entire career at UTSW, I have participated in the STARS program that brings high school students, focusing on underrepresented minorities, into laboratory settings to gain experience and bring awareness that laboratory science is a viable career option. I was fortunate that one of the students from this outreach program ultimately obtained her PhD in my lab, and is now a college professor. Diversity in the lab promotes new ways of thinking and new approaches that benefit everyone. I am committed to efforts that enhance diversity, equity and inclusion at UTSW.
Ruhma Syeda, Ph.D.
As a young student in Pakistan, I was keenly aware of the fact that socioeconomic status and gender prevented many students from pursuing their educational dreams. Disparities in the availability and quality of schooling for those on different ends of the socio-economic spectrum are striking. And, traditionally, basic schooling, especially higher education, is not considered relevant to a woman's development. Because of these long-standing cultural institutions, entire segments of society are disenfranchised and fail to reach their full potential. As my education progressed through secondary school and on to the college level, these differences were brought into ever-clearer focus.
Fortunately, I was raised by grandparents who placed great importance on the empowerment of women via education and scholarly activities. Despite limited financial resources they sacrificed in order to support my studies over the years. As a result of their strong and unwavering encouragement, my own scientific training has spanned three continents and as many languages and cultures.
It is clear that people of color, Indigenous descents, LGBTQ+ community and those with disabilities are under-represented in the STEM around the world. With this in mind, I take great pride in mentoring young scientists from diverse backgrounds and providing the support that helps them reach their full potential. One of my mentee students has graduated from The University of California, San Francisco, while another mentee is on her way to a MD PhD program at The University of Michigan. I am inspired by their dedication and willingness to pursue their careers in a highly competitive environment. Helping the next generation of students especially those from less privileged backgrounds is not only gratifying, but is my responsibility as a professional scientist. It is one way that I can honor the sacrifices that my family made to help me achieve my academic dreams.
To continue the tradition of inspiring students from under-represented backgrounds, I envision that the postdoctoral fellows and graduate students in my lab will represent diversity on many levels. I aim to foster lab culture that is inclusive not just on the gender grounds, but also inviting researchers regardless of their race, religion, color, political affiliations and sexual orientations. Where high-school and undergraduate students could also perform research activities in my laboratory, alongside graduate students and postdocs. This hands-on lab experience and interaction with the scientific community will expose them to early educational opportunities that may not be available otherwise. My desire is to create a healthy research environment where all the members bring something unique to the table, enjoy and respect the differences, and cherish common grounds of scientific research and curiosity. I admire UT Southwestern's outreach efforts and look forward to empower future scientists and academics from diverse backgrounds.
Jonathan Terman, Ph.D.
The BRAIN is diverse and so are WE. The Terman Lab at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) is committed to the mission of recruiting, training, and promoting students, staff, postdocs, and faculty in a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment. Indeed, those fundamental beliefs of our laboratory team are foundational to ensuring the rich tapestry of teaching, learning, investigating, and academic excellence at UTSW.
Present and past lab members bring scientific experience from 10 different countries. 60% are women and underrepresented minorities. The Terman Lab recognizes the impact that a laboratory of diverse thinkers brings to our important work.
Members of the Lab are empowered to openly engage in collaboration and discussions where different views and ideas are encouraged. We are interested in sharing and discussing all topics and supporting one another, thereby creating a research environment where lab members feel supported as valued contributors to the lab's mission of finding solutions to debilitating diseases and devastating conditions, which also do not discriminate. We strive to provide opportunities for individuals to further support their career goals in academic science - or other areas of interest. Past members of the laboratory have gone on to work in diverse areas ranging from the academic setting to industry to healthcare and biomedical directions.
Lenora Volk, Ph.D.
In the Volk lab we work to create a collaborative, intellectually stimulating research environment in which diverse scientists from all backgrounds thrive. We value scientists of all races, ethnicities, cultures, countries, abilities, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, and socioeconomic status. We embrace the things that make each of us unique and leverage the distinct scientific perspectives and problem-solving approaches that each lab member contributes.A person's life experiences influence not just how they might interpret a particular finding, but also the questions they choose to ask, affecting both basic science as well as driving research that may address unique treatment and diagnostic considerations of different populations.
Substantial data demonstrates that diverse teams benefit from better innovation, problem-solving, and productivity. My lab has benefited immensely from the unique perspectives of our diverse research group. Unfortunately, the current reality is that access to education, training, resources, mentors and sponsors is not equitable for every scientist. Addressing inequities experienced by those that are underrepresented in science is a moral imperative. Systemic racism and discrimination within society does not stop at the door to the university classroom, research laboratory, or hospital. It is heartbreaking and troubling to hear many scientists from groups underrepresented in science discuss the countless small and large injustices that they must persist through to make their contributions to their field. There is still much work to do to ensure that research institutions provide sufficiently inclusive and equitable environments and opportunities for those that have been historically excluded from STEM to thrive, not merely survive.
Our lab works to find large and small ways to make meaningful change towards equitable opportunities and work environments for all scientists. We promote an antiracist, inclusive environment in our lab group that encourages open, respectful discussion, and will not tolerate disrespect or discrimination on any basis in ourselves or others. I enthusiastically support lab members that want to participate in science outreach programs and organizations such as SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans) and TAAAS (The Association for African American Scientists) that provide community and advocate for scientists from diverse backgrounds. My lab members and I participate in UTSW science outreach programs such as STARS, as well as community outreach and education activities organized through SACNAS and TAAAS. I am honored to serve on the Neuroscience Working Group for Diversity and Inclusion, the Faculty Collaborative on Racial Equality and Diversity for Clinicians, Scientists and Educators, and the Graduate School Diversity and Equity Committee. Our efforts include concrete strategies for increasing recruitment of scientists from all underrepresented groups at the student, postdoc, and faculty level, as well as programs and policies to promote retention and success of new recruits. We are working with the institution to develop new implicit bias training, and at the department level to enhance mentor training and empower students to get the most out of their mentoring relationships. Our efforts have also focused on developing better mechanisms for reporting and tracking incidents of racism and discrimination. Importantly, these efforts in our lab and at the departmental and institutional level are a work in progress. We will evaluate what works and what does not. We will learn from our mistakes, celebrate our successes, and most importantly, always keep working to make positive change.
Wei Xu, Ph.D.
My lab fully embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion, which we believe foster creative problem solving and elevate the human experience. Despite a lot of progress, women and some other groups are still underrepresented in STEM fields. They have to overcome a lot more challenges and obstacles to get the same opportunities. Although a male myself, I completely empathize with the frustrations they face, and will do the best in my capacity to promote diversity and equity. This is partly because of my own experience of growing up in an adverse environment to fulfill my dream as a scientist.
I grew up in a village in rural China where poverty and lack of education were the norm. Many people including my parents attended only elementary or middle school, and many others never went to school. Higher education was not even a dream for me when I was a child. But with the support from my family, many mentors and colleagues, I was able to rise above the adversity and eventually became the first college/medical school student in my family. I then continued postgraduate study abroad to pursue my dream in science. Today I feel so fortunate and privileged to be able to conduct research at UT Southwestern. It forever warms my heart when I think of the many people who have helped and supported me over the years. I can only pay it forward by helping more people who strive and dream just like me.
I also firmly believe that diversity improves scientific inquisition by injecting different perspectives. Before college, I interacted with people in a small rural area; in universities in China, I started to interact with professors and classmates from different provinces of China; when I became a graduate student, a post-doc and later a faculty member in the US, I interacted with mentors, colleagues and students from different countries and from different ethnicities. My circles have become more and more diverse over the years. Diversity has helped me and people around me to broaden our horizons, to become more creative, and to become more tolerant of differences.
Since my laboratory started at UTSW, we have been a diverse research group. Women have consistently provided crucial innovation and productivity for our lab. We have/had lab members from many different ethnic groups, including African Americans, Hispanic, Caucasians and Asians. In the lab we respect the culture, background and beliefs that each individual brings. We value the enthusiasm that each person brings to research no matter where one comes from. My lab has benefited greatly from the collective wisdom from diverse backgrounds, and we will continue to welcome all talents to join us. I encourage everyone, no matter what your race/ethnicity, gender, age, or sexual orientation is, find a great place like UTSW where you can grow and pursue your passion, and become the best version of yourself.
Shin Yamazaki, Ph.D.
I acknowledge that gender bias and racial inequality exist in academia. It is always my intent to interact with my lab members without any biases with regard to race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, and to always provide equal opportunities. However, despite my best efforts, unconscious biases still exist. In my laboratory, it is my goal to identify and remove those biases and provide a safe work environment in which each member can freely talk about anything, especially concerns related to biases and inequalities. All members of my lab will participate in workshops/webinars organized by the Office of Faculty Diversity and Development and the Office of Women's Careers. Postdocs will participate in Neuroscience mentoring/training programs which includes topics related to gender bias and racial inequality.
I value diversity in science. I believe diversity in my laboratory has positively impacted our science, education, and outreach efforts. I keep a small laboratory, therefore maintaining diversity can be challenging. My past lab members include those in various stages of learning, from high school summer students to postdocs, as well as trainees from diverse ethnic backgrounds including USA, South Korea, New Zealand, Brazil, and Egypt. Importantly, most of the trainees have contributed to new discoveries and continued in scientific research. I will continue to prioritize recruitment of groups underrepresented in STEM to participate in my laboratory. With my current NSF grant support, we will reach out to middle school science teachers in public schools in the Dallas/Fort Worth area (the majority of students in schools near our campus are underrepresented minorities) and set up a circadian bioluminescence recording system from dinoflagellates in the classroom. We provide resources and training for teachers in order to improve learning outcomes in underrepresented students.
Lastly, I promise to encourage discussions about inequality and discrimination among my lab members. Once each semester, I hold a lab meeting discussing this topic. I feel that it is my duty to continue to improve my mentoring and my laboratory environment, and to always strive to be better than the past.
Gang Yu, Ph.D.
For one thousand years, my family lived in a mountainous village in East China, farming on land claimed from the bank of a river that cuts through the village. By the time I was born, our village was submerged due to the building of a large hydroelectric dam downstream of the river. During the following years we migrated from one place to another, and from one country to another (China, Canada, USA). Before settling down in Texas, I had never lived in a single place for more than five years. Living with people with diverse backgrounds and experiences has been a natural part of my life, and has instilled in me the values of integrity, fairness, and social justice that have guided me in my academic career.
The mission of our lab is to make fundamental discoveries about biological processes in health and disease, with a particular focus on the molecular and cellular basis of neurodegeneration. Over my two decades of academic journey, I have had the fortune to work with, and mentor some of the most amazing people from all walks of life and all over the world. I strive to facilitate growth and success of the next generation of scientists, and welcome students, postdocs, and staff from all backgrounds and perspectives to join our lab. I pledge to build a workplace culture that ensures that people of all shapes and sizes -- whether women, immigrants, LGBTQI+, BIPOC, or a member of any other underrepresented groups in STEM -- feel welcome and supported.
Faculty with Secondary Appointments in Neuroscience
Marc Diamond, M.D.
The Diamond lab is part of the Center for Alzheimer's and Neurodegenerative Diseases. In parallel with our goal of creating better diagnosis and treatment for Alzheimer's and related disorders, we strive to develop the careers of talented individuals from all ethnic, gendered, and socioeconomic backgrounds, and do. The CAND is comprised overall of 62% women, and the faculty are 50% women. Our ethnic composition is very diverse, and is atypical for biomedical research programs: 9% African American, 25% Asian, 26% Hispanic, and 40% Caucasian (Department Diversity with Person Structure, 2020, September 30). We will continue to maintain a welcoming and diverse group, and strive to ensure that everyone feels fully supported.
We believe that diverse teams are stronger, and strive to create a culture in which very high scientific standards are coupled with support of new and innovative approaches. We promote the careers of all our trainees by encouraging participation in national and international meetings, and ensuring the highest quality of published research comes from the lab. In addition to working in a diverse environment, CAND personnel participate in annual training required by the University to improve cultural awareness and sensitivity.
Human talent is our most precious resource in science, and must be cultivated from all sectors of society, from all ethnic, gendered, and socioeconomic groups. We seek to create an environment where talent is given the best chance to express itself for each individual, taking into account the fact that each person in the group comes from a different background, and may have unique needs for learning and achievement. The CAND will continue cultivating an inclusive atmosphere through participation in university programs established to enhance opportunities for education, employment, and mentoring.
Robert Greene, M.D., Ph.D.
There is abundant evidence that there is no correlation between sex, religion, race or gender and a good scientific mind. To restrict (in any way) participation in our lab based on any of these characteristics makes no sense and worse, it has negative impact in that the important positive effects provided by a variety of different viewpoints will be lost in the absence of diversity. Thus, independently of the obvious ethical considerations supporting diversity, my lab is committed to its promotion, within our lab, our department and our medical center.
Daisuke Hattori, Ph.D.
Growing up in a suburban city of the seemingly homogenous society of Japan, I had my first significant exposure to diversity when I went to college in Tokyo. In addition to the majority of my 18-year-old Japanese freshman classmates, there were older students who had returned to college to change their career, students who had spent most of their lives abroad, and students who came from different social, economic, and religious backgrounds. My classmates had unique life stories, experiences, and perspectives that I had never encountered, nor imagined. It was exhilarating to learn from them about different point of views and the unbounded possibilities in life.
After college, I moved to Los Angeles for my graduate study as an international student. The graduate program had students from all over the world, and we studied and worked in labs run by diverse faculty members. The opportunity to be included in this community, not based on my identity or where I am from, but based on what I had done and what I aspired to do, was an amazing experience that I am very thankful for. I have been truly fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to experience and appreciate diversity both as a member of the majority in Japan and as a member of a minority in the United States. It is these experiences that underlie my commitment, both as a scientist and as a citizen of the world, to promote diversity and equal opportunities.
Academic institutions, like all other industries, unequivocally benefit from diversity. Indeed, the success of academia is dependent upon ideas and perspectives that derive from diverse people of different backgrounds. Thus, increasing diversity is essential for our success. Promoting diversity needs to occur at multiple levels. These include faculty make-up, student body, and education starting from elementary school. I will continue to take every opportunity to promote diversity and equal opportunities in academia and in my community, both locally and globally. As a member of faculty search committee and graduate admissions committee, I am an advocate for underrepresented candidates and students. I seek out university-sponsored programs for underrepresented undergraduates and high school students, and host students in my lab so that they can obtain hands-on research experience and mentorship. Finally, I encourage all the members of my lab to participate in these programs as well as other community outreach programs.
I believe it is the diversity of human society and culture that truly enriches our lives. Interacting with people from different backgrounds is illuminating, not only because it offers an opportunity to learn something new, but also because it provides a chance to reflect upon our own background that we take for granted. I have first-hand experience of how positively the diversity impacts a person in growing both professionally and personally. It is with this experience that I firmly commit myself to promoting diversity and equity, both in my lab and in society.
Takashi Kitamura, Ph.D.
Our mission in the Kitamura Laboratory at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center is to provide a biophysically-based and mechanistic understanding of neural process for learning and memory in the entorhinal cortical hippocampal networks, and to mentor the next generation of scientists in a collaborative and diverse training environment. We believe that the diversities of perspective, background and ability are key factors in the development and execution of creative projects in the field of neurobiology. Indeed, having diversity of thought and experience within a team is critical to facilitate projects that by their nature require an approach that links the biological substrate of the nervous system to the cognitive and behavioral processes we observe and participate in every day, perceptions of which may be heavily influenced by culture and experience. Our laboratory welcomes students and scientists from underrepresented minorities to join our laboratory. In fact, we have a history of mentorship of LGBTQIA+ and international staff and trainees from the start of our work at UTSW. We promise to prepare a collaborative training environment that values and supports our peers who are women, immigrants, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, Black, Indigenous and People of Color. We do not accept institutional and systemic racism and we are not willing to be complacent participants in this paradigm. We, alongside our Institute, are actively working to unlearn our implicit biases in every form, undo systems of injustice and inequity in STEM, and to increase representation of underrepresented minorities in science. We believe that fighting racism, implicit bias and discrimination should be approached through education, advocacy and outreach. We actively strive for a culture of equity and representation to conduct great science.
Chen Liu, Ph.D.
The Chen Liu lab at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center studies genetic and environmental factors leading towards metabolic syndromes such as obesity and type-II diabetes. Many of these conditions differentially impact Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) with significantly higher morbidity and mortality rates. The overarching goal of our research is to develop mechanism-based therapies to improve the lives of patients from all ethnic backgrounds.
Since the opening in 2015, the lab has been actively supporting and training members who are women, immigrants, and underrepresented minorities (URM). We encourage and welcome trainees and staff members from all races, ethnicities, genders, and religions to be a member of our lab family. We firmly believe that scientific innovation can benefit from diversity of perspective, background, and ability. Moreover, equal opportunities represent a fundamental goal of our society.
We recognize that institutional and systemic racism still exists in today's academia and medicine. To confront these issues, each member of our lab pledges to fight workplace racism, unconscious bias, and discrimination.
We are committed to continuing to pursue efforts to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion. These include the following practices in education, advocacy, and outreach.
- Ensure inclusive leadership, policies, and practices;
- Actively seek opportunities to mentor underrepresented students;
- Integrate diversity into the curriculum and research;
- Foster a mutually respectful intellectual environment in which diverse opinions are valued;
- Recruit traditionally underrepresented staff members; and
- Participate in outreach to underserved groups in the community.
Ram Madabhushi, Ph.D.
Academic environments that value diversity have profoundly influenced my life. As a high school student in India, I aspired to pursue higher education in the United States. However, the lack of financial resources seemed an insurmountable obstacle to my ambitions. Fortunately, I was accepted to the University of Bridgeport (UB), which supported me with a generous academic scholarship. At UB, I was part of a vibrant academic community of students from ninety countries, and faculty that prioritized developing strong personal connections with students. Together, these features greatly eased the challenge of adapting to the academic culture in a foreign country, created an environment in the classroom that was intellectually stimulating, and inspired me to pursue a career in scientific research. Similarly, during my graduate and postdoctoral studies, I learned from mentors who are committed to increasing access to scientific research and education, especially to students and scientists from underrepresented groups.
Having benefited from environments that value diversity, I am eager to contribute to building a diverse scientific community as an independent investigator. I believe that diversity within the student and postdoctoral community stimulates creative thinking and scientific progress through the integration of perspectives. However, the lack of racial, gender, and class diversity constitutes a major problem for the field of biomedical research today. Trainees from underrepresented minorities (URM) face unique challenges compared to their peers in accessing and thriving at top-notch scientific research environments. My laboratory aims to address these challenges in the following ways: (1) increasing outreach at the primary, secondary, and college levels and providing mentorship to URM students that is necessary to navigate the highly selective application process to top-tier research institutions; (2) developing and participating in year-round and summer research programs for undergraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds at UT Southwestern; (3) Considering diversity as an important factor in recruitment at the laboratory, department, and graduate program levels; (4) Ensuring that the laboratory is a safe space that elevates the confidence of URM trainees with a focus on increasing URM retention within the biomedical research community; (5) improving connectivity between URM trainees and URM mentors within the UTSW scientific community; and (6) Seeking guidance and partnering with the Offices of Institutional Equity and Access, Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, and the UT Southwestern Postdoctoral Association to achieve these objectives.
Steven Shabel, Ph.D.
In the Shabel lab, we come from all over the world and each bring our entire self to the lab. We are passionate about creating a culture of diversity, inclusivity, compassion, and kindness, because we believe it is not only good for us, but also good for our science. We support the advancement of underrepresented groups in STEM through several avenues, including the Society for Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) at UT Southwestern.
We welcome people of all backgrounds and are committed to fostering an inclusive environment. We are educating ourselves about the impacts of racism and our own inherent biases, and how to reverse them. We look forward to participating in efforts to end systemic racism by recruiting more underrepresented groups in STEM to UT Southwestern at all levels.
Peter Tsai, M.D., Ph.D.
The Tsai Lab is a neurobiology research laboratory in the Departments of Neurology, Neuroscience, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Our goal as a lab is to foster curiosity and promote discovery geared towards understanding and developing treatments for neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disease. Central to these goals, the lab strives to become, inspire, and mentor the next generation(s) of medical and scientific leaders via a supportive, rigorous, and collaborative training milieu.
Critical to the success of this goal is identifying, fostering, and supporting exceptional trainees focused on advancing the understanding of normal and pathological nervous system function. We believe that fundamental insights of neurobiology will translate into novel therapies for human disease, and only through diversity of perspective, background, and ability will we be able to achieve our goals. Therefore, we actively seek individuals from underrepresented minorities to join the lab and thrive in a team- oriented culture that values empathy, excellence, rigor, and respect.
We are aware that the implicit and explicit systems that promote and perpetuate systemic inequality, are not just "out there" in society, but that these systems are pervasive in academia and medicine. We acknowledge and recognize that we must look within to remedy the ways in which each of us has participated in perpetuating these inequalities. Each one of us has a part to play in righting these inequalities, and each lab member of the Tsai lab is committed to this effort. We are dedicated to educating ourselves about our own implicit biases and the often insidious ways that racism manifest subconsciously, corrodes, and destroys. We will not tolerate discrimination of any kind nor will we tolerate the unwillingness of ourselves or others to acknowledge participation and culpability for these inequities. We recognize that there is much work to be done to achieve our goal of eradicating these individual and systemic inequalities, and we are committed to working to improve our academic training system for the better.
As presently constructed, our lab consists of 2/3 women and 1/3 underrepresented minorities (3 graduate students, 1 postdoctoral fellow). We are dedicated to fostering an inclusive training platform that values, supports, and celebrates diversity and equity for ourselves and our colleagues who identify as women, BLIPOC (Black, Latinx, Indigenous, people of color), LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual), and persons with disabilities.