Speaker series aims to strengthen culture of belonging in STEM fields

- July 21, 2021

Breaking Barriers invites scholars from STEM and STEM-related fields to share their research and experiences in the field as members of underrepresented groups. (Provided image)
Breaking Barriers invites scholars from STEM and STEM-related fields to share their research and experiences in the field as members of underrepresented groups. (Provided image)

A new lecture series launched this month at Dalhousie aims to enhance equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility (EDIA) in STEM and STEM-related disciplines at the university.

Efforts by faculty and staff to create a more welcoming community at Dalhousie are well known, but gaps do remain — particularly in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and related fields such as health and the social sciences.

That’s why the Office of the Vice-Provost Equity & Inclusion, with support from the Office of the Vice-President Research and Innovation as well as EDIA committees in the Faculties and the Ocean Frontier Institute, is inviting scholars in these fields from Dal and beyond to present their research as part of its new Belong Speaker Series: Breaking Barriers.

Several departments across disciplines and Faculties are hosting the speakers featured in the series, which is co-sponsored by the Canadian Black Scientist Network.

(A full list of speakers can be found at the end of this article)

The power of different perspectives

Speakers drawn from different backgrounds are intended to serve as role models, discussing their research contributions to various fields of study and sharing stories about their own mentors in fields where they are often underrepresented.

“At Dal, we aim to create a community of critical thinkers who can tackle the complex issues facing humanity by exposing them to research and innovation that contains excellence in diversity and diversity in excellence specific to STEM and STEM-related fields,” says Theresa Rajack-Talley, Dal’s vice provost equity and inclusion.

Recognizing that teaching and research are not separate endeavors but inextricably linked, the series identifies gaps in curricula at the university and creates opportunities to increase exposure at Dal to the scholarship of researchers from underrepresented groups.

Building better relationships

Kevin Hewitt, a professor in the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science and the outgoing chair of Dalhousie Senate, has been advocating for more diversity in STEM curricula and research since his days as a graduate student at Simon Fraser University in the late 1990s.

Now, as a co-organizer of the Belong series with Sarah Upshaw, program manager with Promoting Leadership in Health for African Nova Scotians (PLANS), Dr. Hewitt hopes to bring such conversations into the foreground in academic units across Dal.

“It is our hope that we can build relationships through the speaker series that can have potentially long-lasting outcomes,” he says. And, in turn, Upshaw sees this as “an excellent opportunity for PLANS participants to see themselves reflected in the speakers, consistent with the notion that you cannot be what you cannot see.”

Upcoming talks in the series

(Please note: More information about to attend will be provided on the Dalhousie Events calendar closer to each talk.)

Saurabh Chitnis
Discipline: Chemistry
Institution: Dalhousie
Topic: Functional Molecules and Materials via Geometric Thinking
Date: Aug. 13

Kimberley Gauthier (Faculty of Medicine partner with graduate studies)
Discipline: Biology
Institution: Sick Kids
Topic: “Cell signaling, protein trafficking, and development in worm and fly model organisms”
Date: Sept. 8

Haorui Wu (Faculty of Agriculture)
Discipline: Health/Social Work
Institution: Dalhousie University
Topic: “Building cultural competency in hazards and disaster research for scholars in STEM"
Date: Sept. 23

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
Discipline: Physics/Astonomy
Institution: University of New Hampshire
Topic: “Where Dark Matter is the Norm”
Date: Sept. 23

Nicola Smith
Discipline: Biological/Environmental Science/Ocean Research
Institution: Simon Fraser University
Topic: “Conceptual and applied approaches to marine invasions: Indo-Pacific lionfish as a model system”
Date: Sept. 27

Alexandra Davis (Faculty of Engineering)
Discipline: Biological Sciences/Oceanography (MEOPAR Fellow)
Institution: University of Alberta
Topic: TBC
Date: Sept. 27

Latricia Best
Discipline: Sociology/Black Studies
Institution: University of Louisville
Topic: “Mapping the Different Positions and Politics of Biosocial Research on Race and Health.”
Date: September, with exact date to be confirmed

Oliver Rollins
Discipline: Sociology/Black Studies
Institution: University of Louisville
Topic: “Exploring the routes toward Antiracism and (Neuro)science”
Date: September, with exact date to be confirmed

Juliet Daniel
Discipline: Biology
Institution: McMaster University
Topic: TBC
Date: September, with exact date to be confirmed

Past events in series

Noreen Kamal (Faculty of Engineering)

Discipline: Engineering
Institution: Dalhousie University
Topic: “Engineers can Improve Health Care and Save Lives? How I have improved acute stroke systems in Alberta and what I am doing in Atlantic Canada to improve stroke care.”
Date: July 5

Deborah Roberts
Discipline: Psychology
Institution: Howard University
Topic: “Cultural Assets as Moderators – CAM:  The Evolution of a Model.”
Date: July 19


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