Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement
In the Esser-Kahn Group, we believe in promoting the equity and inclusion of all individuals in science and engineering. It is in our lab’s mission to actively work towards a future where currently underrepresented people in science have equal
opportunity and voices.
We prioritize inclusion because it the best way to do science and engineering with the world’s best scientists and engineers and also because it is the morally right thing to do.
Correcting the existing inequity in science is ambitious and easier said than done. We recognize that there are many systemic problems that loom well beyond the scope of our lab. However, in the ways that we can, we strive to be part of a collective, earnest, and thoughtful effort to seed the growth of a culture of equity in our lab members and lab spaces. Though we are just one lab, we find our commitment to equity important because we hope that many labs making such commitments will help start to encourage larger changes. Here are some of the ways our lab is working towards inclusion:
In the above figure, our goal has always been to create an environment represented by the upper right “Inclusion” quadrant. To this end, since its inception, our group has been composed of people originating from almost every settled continent in the world (still working on Australia) and people with many different socioeconomic, racial, and gender identities. From post-docs to undergraduates, we believe that a diverse group leads to the richest intellectual environment and, consequently, enables us to do our best science. We also believe that a diverse group makes us a stronger community of people as we engage with and understand different ideas, cultures, backgrounds, and more.
At the same time, our lab policies and culture strive to ensure our group exists not just in the “Integration” quadrant but rather in the “Inclusion” one. We have several lab programs that seek to foster an open and inviting environment for all and to include each other in our research projects and working lives:
Mealbot: Lab members volunteer and are then randomly paired with another member to have lab-funded lunches once a month. We use these meals to engage in conversation, get to know one another, and understand each other’s perspectives on research projects and identities.
Passion Topics: During some group meetings, a lab member is asked to present on a topic that they are passionate about which can be anything at all. This is an opportunity to teach us something about themselves and their background—and for us to learn something new!
Structured Mentoring: Each lab member has a mentoring committee composed of senior lab members that is formed when the lab member starts in the group. They develop a structured mentoring plan together with the new member and set clear goals for the new member’s project and idea development. The mentors are also the first of many friendly faces for the new member to rely on.
We also recognize there are a few challenges in working with a richly diverse group of thinkers, and not every day is perfect. Occasionally, there are misunderstandings, mistakes, and disconnects. Our most important tool is the mechanisms we have in place to catch these concerns and talk through them—as individuals or as a group. We provide many candid and open opportunities to flag and address intra- and interpersonal concerns so that we can maintain focus on supporting one another in research and in life.
Those are some ideas that we have implemented in the past, and we will continue to have many more ideas in the future. Not all the ideas we’ve tried have worked, but even less successful action has brought new growth, understanding, and the knowledge that there are many more things we could improve upon. If you would like to learn more, feel free to contact us. If you have ideas of your own, we are always open to trying new things—we’d love to hear from you.