Race is among the more difficult topics to deal with in our society. It is just such a mess. This article I wrote from 2018 seems appropriate now to remember.
My initial reaction is that the problem starts at the undergrad level. I could be wrong, but if you have decent grades (3.0+) you should be able to get into a graduate school somewhere. At least in the biological fields, you get paid to go to grad school so that removes a lot of the financial barriers for financially challenged students. I find it hard to believe that this is a problem with grad school admissions, but I am very open to be proven wrong.
It would seem that the major problem is black students don’t aren’t getting science degrees at the undergrad level. Being a white male I have no idea what the challenges are for black students who want to get into the sciences, and I would love to hear what they are.
One of the biggest fall offs, perhaps surprisingly or not, is between undergrad and graduate school. Proportionally more science-adept black students end up choosing medicine over science.
I didn’t know that. Interesting.
Medicine can be more lucrative and stable, so I can certainly see why people would be drawn to those professions. Constantly fighting for grant money can be a scary proposition, although there are career paths in industry and government if the Darwinian grant process isn’t for you.
I also found this interesting article, and it mentions WUSTL.
I have actually worked with undergrads in summer internships like the one described in the article, and it has been rewarding to see students gain confidence in the lab. After being in the lab for decades I think you can forget how intimidating it was at the start. It’s good to see that there are programs like that which are focused on black and hispanic students.
Thanks for starting this thread, and I am interested in hearing about other peoples’ experiences. I think we would all benefit from a more diverse scientific community, especially within religious affiliations.
I suspect a lot of it is self-perpetuating due to lack of role models. Black high school students with an interest in science don’t see black research scientists, so they don’t consider it as a career option. When I was doing research, my PI was Nigerian. He actively recruited black high school students and undergrads for summer internships. Many of these students went on to grad school.
Yes. Lots of factors: Role models, potential earnings in the profession, cultures, etc. In academia in the 80s I encountered more Africa and South American scientists and students than those who grew up in the US of African or South American ancestry. But that’s been changing over the years. Slowly, but definitely changing.
Several years ago, when I was looking to fill REU positions, I cold-called a professor at Kentucky State University, an HBCU about 30 miles from the University of Kentucky. That call led to a collaboration that involved two of her students (one who worked in my lab for a summer) and three publications co-authored by KSU faculty and students. During the school year, I traveled the 30 miles once or twice a month to visit with the group. I think that, by meeting them in a familiar setting during the school year, the students were much more at ease.