PNI’s “Empowering diversity and promoting scientific equity at PNI” (EPSP) has been awarded the 2020 BiasWatchNeuro Award for Equity and Inclusivity. EPSP was established by two graduate students, Bri Carvajal and Ken Igarza. They initially reached out to the PNI leadership for their support, and then to Institute members at all levels, from undergraduates to graduates students to postdoctoral fellows. EPSP was born out of Bri’s and Ken’s enthusiasm and commitment to foster a more equitable future. EPSP aspires to build and support an inclusive, accessible, and diverse community for underrepresented groups and their allies at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. It also aims to empower and support equity amongst undergraduate and graduate students, post-docs, and research staff from first-generation, low-Income, and racial and/or ethnic underrepresented groups in neuroscience. Additionally, EPSP celebrates intersectionality and strives to advocate for and welcome all underrepresented groups, including individuals who are neurodiverse, medically disabled, and/or LGBTQIA+. EPSP is committed to offering personal, academic, and professional development opportunities, shaping spaces for networking and community-building, facilitating discussions of issues about barriers to diversity and inclusion in neuroscience, and organizing community outreach. Moreover, the organization aims to provide a model for other departments to follow suit at Princeton University.
Despite being established in June 2020, the organization moved quickly and established a series of lectures, journal clubs and outreach events that focused on issues of diversity, racial equality, transgender rights and the intersection of these issues with science. Given this tremendous success in such a short period of time, it was both very surprising and highly rewarding to receive the BiasWatchNeuro Award. In the nomination letter, the organization is commended for its success to achieve diversity across its leadership and members, and to its realization of its stated goal of creating a space for under-represented minorities where their concerns are acknowledged and addressed in a meanigful way.
“We are very excited! We just launched in June and we already have had an amazing impact. It would not have been the case without the tremendous energy of our leadership team,” said Bri Carvajal and Ken Igarza. “What distinguishes us is that our efforts are led by students for students and we get the work done fast,“ Ken said when asked about the uniqueness of EPSP as an organization. Commenting on the future of EPSP, Bri said, “We feel supported by the neuroscience institute leadership and we regularly coordinate with its climate and inclusion committee to set the agenda for how to best address concerns of under-represented minorities in the Institute.”
by Ahmed El Hady