I am passionate and committed to building a community, which is kind, diverse, equitable, inclusive with a sense of belonging, and strives for betterment. My DEIB commitment is informed by being a person of colour born into a post-colonialist culture favouring fair skin and patriarchy, by being a first-generation college graduate, by my experiences of living and working in white and heteronormative spaces, and the experiences of my friends and colleagues. Besides being action-oriented towards structural changes in our communities, I believe we need to acknowledge the status quo, accept our privileges, embrace implicit biases, and hold accountability for actions of each other.
Below are selected projects that I have been focusing on lately along with links to a few equity resources that we all should be looking into.
Harvard Medical Postdoc Association
My goals are to work together with other committee chairs (advocacy, entrepreneurship, outreach, professional development, communications, social) to gather and voice concerns of the postdocs, to create and provide resources for postdocs professional as well as personal support, and to strengthen the sense of postdoctoral community at the HMS. Some of the major work we are doing this year is to address postdoc salary inequities among Harvard Medical School and affiliated hospitals via survey campaigns, initiate a mentor-mentee program with the Bunker Hill Community College (Boston's highest students of colour and low-income students) and create outreach opportunities, putting in place transparent resources for prospective postdocs before moving to Boston, provide resources for academia exit opportunities, addressing immigration and visa related queries every 2-3 months, providing healthcare and childcare resources, and hosting social events and book clubs to create a space for DEIB conversations and strengthen the postdoc community.
Fair Recruitment of Postdocs
At the department of systems biology, Harvard Medical School, I am chairing the DEIB working group on strategizing fair recruitment of postdocs and new faculty. We are creating a centralised application process for interested postdoc candidates in the department of Systems Biology that will allow us to collect data about candidates’ demographics, background, and research interests. Our next phase would be data analysis, accountability, and influencing the recruitment and evaluation process by implementing ways for the fair and transparent assessment of candidates. We view this centralised application portal as a pilot that can be expanded to other departments within the Harvard Medical School. In addition to the application process, we are structuring methods to introduce postdoc cohorts in the department to strengthen the sense of community and belonging. At the faculty level, our goal is to work with the faculty hiring committee to strategize fair evaluation methods and implement candidate-departmental trainee interaction and feedback metrics in the recruitment of faculty candidates valuing DEIB.
Department Culture and Inclusivity
I am a member of this DEIB working group in the department of systems biology and together we have launched a new and successful seminar series 'Systems Seminar', primarily run by the postdocs. The seminar series serves as a forum for URMs and early-career researchers of colour (junior group leaders/assistant professors, postdocs, finishing graduate students) to share their research and to create opportunities for collaboration and networking. With this seminar series, we celebrate science, diversity, and inclusivity.
Outreach & Mentoring
Following are a few selected projects that I have participated in, have founded and initiated.
1. The Calculus Project - it is a grassroots-style initiative to increase enrollment of low-income and students of colour in AP maths classes in high school in the Cambridge/Boston area. As a part of their STEM careers summer project, I have interacted with the students in 2020 and 2021 to showcase lab research, my research problem, and the relevance of maths in STEM careers.
2. Together We Science - I co-founded this initiative with my friend Christine Kiefer at the University of Tübingen, Germany. The principle goal of this project is open and interdisciplinary integration of research in society. We have created a space for doctoral candidates from all departments across the Uni to talk about their research projects catered to a broad audience. We embrace interdisciplinarity and celebrate arts, diversity, and inclusivity with research. We have been sponsored by the Forum Scientiarum/Center for Interdisciplinary Sciences in Tübingen.
3. ASAPbio - It is a non-profit organisation for accelerating scientific publication in biology, spearheaded by Jessica Polka. I led conversations about preprints - reading, reviewing, and publishing in my lab, department, and at the institutional level at the University of Tübingen, Germany. With guidelines from Prachee Avasthi, I started an institute-wide preprint journal club.
4. Mentoring minority undergraduates - I have mentored a few minority undergraduate students one-on-one during their summer programs and during their bachelor thesis at the University of Tübingen, Germany.
5. YATN - Youth's Attempt To Nurture was an initiative started by a group of undergraduates at IISER Mohali. We started evening school for children of on-campus construction labourers and advocated for better health and well-being of labour families. We organised regular fundraising events on campus to secure funding to send children to proper schools after establishing basic school education ourselves.
Photograph of one of the YATN kids on IISER Mohali campus indulged in a learning and colouring activity.