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Nearly all areas of American industry and academia suffer from a lack of diversity and representation. Despite copious evidence that increased diversity improves the intellectual output and creativity of any organization, there are still numerous obstacles and gatekeepers that work to keep underrepresented minorities from gaining ground in many fields. Even those who are able to overcome the odds and rise in their chosen fields often find themselves isolated within their organizations, surrounded by people who don’t understand their experience. For many, this isolation can lead to disillusionment and burnout.

Carnegie Mellon University Chemical Engineering postdoctoral scholar Kishana Taylor, who works in the lab of Assistant Professor Elizabeth Wayne, has set out to tackle this problem. She, along with her fellow organizers, is hosting the first Black in Microbiology week, a unique professional development program that aims to highlight Black scientists and their contributions to the field of microbiology and all its related subfields, including virology, mycology, bacteriology, and parasitology.

Black woman photographed outside

Source: Doanise Thompson

Kishana Taylor, Postdoctoral Scholar, Chemical Engineering

“Black in Microbiology week is a vibrant celebration of Black microbiologists, as well as a platform through which Black microbiologists can connect, develop community, and be supported,” says Taylor. “This is the first Black in Microbiology week, but due to the tremendous interest, we can already tell it’ll be the first of many.”

The week-long program, held this year from September 28 to October 4, features virtual talks and workshops meant to highlight career paths and research topics, provide mentorship, and give a platform to scientists at various stages of their career. Panels include discussions of microbiology subfields, disparities in STEM education, careers in microbiology, HIV and the Black Queer community, and COVID-19 vaccines and testing. The full week of programing is designed to facilitate the sharing of resources, and encourage the success and matriculation of Black microbiologists.

These talks are led by experts from across the microbiology field, including giants of industry and technology, academic deans and professors, medical directors, government advisors, and more.

“Through organizing this annual event and community, we hope to not only showcase the presence and accomplishments of Black microbiologists from across the globe,” says Taylor, “but also provide a forum for the discussion of racial disparities in the field, and attempt to correct these disparities by amplifying Black scientists in all fields, and supporting the collective work of pursuing equity in academia, industry, government, and beyond.”

We hope to not only showcase Black microbiologists from across the globe, but also provide a forum for the discussion of racial disparities in the field.

Kishana Taylor, Postdoctoral Scholar, Chemical Engineering

In addition to this week-long event, Black in Microbiology will be holding additional events in the future, including professional networking events and workshops on research funding and non-academic careers. Ultimately, the goal is to further develop Black in Microbiology into a non-profit that will serve as a hub for resources within the Black microbiology community.

Anyone who is interested is welcome to register and attend the week-long virtual event. Additionally, Black in Microbiology is seeking financial support for this and further events and advocacy activities. All donations and sponsorships will go toward portions of the project including, but not limited to: speaker honorariums, captioning of live-streamed events, and web design and maintenance. For more information on how to get involved, email Black in Microbiology.

Black in Microbiology logo design by Elena Lin.