Essay on Diversity and Inclusion

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Concern with diversity, equity and inclusion have been central to my research, teaching, and advising during my Ph.D. studies and postdoctoral time. I have worked with diverse populations both as a Teaching Assistant at Michigan Technological University and as a Postdoctoral Associate at Yale University that prides itself on having a diverse population of students. I describe below my current and proposed efforts in advancing diversity.

About six years ago, I was about to pursue my master’s degree in China. At that time, I just knew I liked math. But I didn’t know what specific research filed I was interested in. I had participated in the mathematical contest in modeling many times. It was the most fun, challenging, exciting, frustrating, and exhausting thing I ever did as an undergraduate. I found using statistical knowledge to solve some practical problems was so exciting. A people changed my life at that time, he was my advisor Dr. Zhang, a statistical geneticist at Michigan Tech. He gave me an opportunity to study statistical genetics at Michigan Technological University. My new beautiful life started at that time. I did research with Dr. Zhang and had a group meeting every week. We had a big research group and took turns to lead the talk every Saturday. As a new graduate student, the many layers of my diversity unfolded in an inharmonious manner. It was challenging for me to read the paper and learn how to use the R program at first. Fortunately, my friends and roommates who came from different countries gave me strong support at that time. We encouraged each other, and studies together till after midnight. After the first year in the United State, I came to love statistical genetics, because linkage analysis, allelic association tests, gene statement array analysis, sequence analysis, joint analysis of multiple phenotypes, they intersect frequently with life sciences and are strongly linked with human’s diseases.

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My time as a graduate student and postdoctoral researcher provided a well-rounded experience working with wonderful people from all backgrounds. At Michigan Technological University, I was a Teaching Assistant as well as a lab coordinator for about three years. Since students come from very different backgrounds and may take courses for different reasons, I have learned a lot about how to effectively communicate with students from different educational backgrounds and what works and what does not work when one’s trying to bridge cultural, technological, and educational gaps to communicate ideas in math. The most valuable and important things I have learned are listening to what my students said carefully and demonstrating respect for my students. I always encourage my students to ask questions and I would always like to offer individualized help to students who need it. As a postdoc at Yale, I am closely working with many collaborators with different backgrounds. I believe that efficient communication is the connection and the key with people. Using a comfortable and understandable way to explain statistical methods to collaborators is as important as doing research.

I believe diversity inclusion in the classroom and research laboratory is critical for academic and research success. In the future, I would continue to work with students and faculties regardless of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, language, religion, nationality, culture, sexual orientation, physical ability, or thinking styles, and continue to contribute to campus diversity in teaching, research, and service. In terms of instruction, all the courses that I will teach would qualify for the university’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion requirements. More informally, I’d be happy to meet with and advise student social or cultural groups. The rich opportunities in the university for interdisciplinary research would provide new avenues for engaging with questions and issues of diversity across disciplines; in turn, I look forward to sharing my own research and methods with colleagues and students across the university.

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