Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI):
I am dedicated to ensuring that my lab is a safe, open, welcoming environment for everyone. This is a commitment that includes a series of tangible actions and policies that are summarized below and that will continue to evolve.
As I continue to educate myself on the systemic issues that act as a barrier to a career in science, as well as reckon with how my own path has both directly and indirectly contributed to the problem, I want any prospective student or postdoc who may be reading this to know that it is my priority to be a supportive mentor and advocate for you. No matter the color of your skin, your gender, sexual orientation, religion, or any other aspect of your identity, you are welcome in my lab and you are welcome at WHOI. I believe that part of the solution to improving DEI is outreach across a wide spectrum of academic levels, from K-12 through grad school. But on a daily basis, within academia, being an adocate for DEI as an advisor to students and postdocs is a key part of effecting meaningful change. Here are my commitments to you, a potential student or postdoc:
Reducing the inherent academic power dynamic between students and advisors. To create a truly open environment (and to do the best science together), it is absolutely critical that you feel comfortable talking with me or someone else at WHOI whenever an issue arises, without fear of retribution. One small but tangible step towards creating this openness is eliminating confidential letters of recommendation on applications. Too often, advisees are reluctant to come forward with issues out of fear that their advisor may write a negative letter of recommendation in the future. You have my word that you will always have an opportunity to see and edit any letter of recommendation that I write. I hope that this transparency creates an openness that persists throughout your time in my lab group.
Your graduate student or postdoc experience is about developing skills and broadening interests, not being an underpaid replacement for a laboratory technician. At the outset of graduate school, it is enormously difficult to predict where your research will take you and whether your interests will remain the same (they likely will not!). I am committed to treating you as a scholar, not an employee, and to ensuring that you have the flexibility to change the course of your research. There are many avenues to change course in the middle of grad school, or even a postdoc position, and I want you to know before you even apply that I will support you should you decide to move in a new direction. [This goes for career shifts, too (e.g., outside of academia)]
Academia can be tough, especially in your early career. Failure is inevitable at any career stage, and in fact it is key to learning and to furthering scientific progress. However, despite its scientific benefits, failure can lead to mental and emotional distress and associated feelings of impostor syndrome. It’s important to know (a) that resources are available to you at WHOI, and (b) that I will support and encourage you to prioritize your mental and physical health in my lab at all times.
I am committed to continue learning and growing as a mentor and an advocate. A major flaw in academia is that scientists are trained and hired based on research skills, not interpersonal advising skills. I am sure that I won’t be a perfect advisor. But when I make a mistake, I hope you feel comfortable bringing it to my attention. You have my word that I will listen, learn, adapt and continue to educate myself on being a better mentor and advocate.