In the Kucenas Lab, we value and welcome all individuals regardless of how we look, who we love, where we came from, or how we live. We embrace and celebrate our differences not only because it is right, but because they also strengthen our lab and improve our science. With these values, we will strive for inclusive excellence and will not tolerate hate, discrimination, or harassment of any form in our community. In our pursuit of this goal, we will listen with compassion and patience when others share their ideas, opinions, and experiences, we will speak up with courage against acts of injustice, and we will continue to grow and evolve as humans and scientists as we learn from our mistakes and build on our achievements.
Originally Written: 8/27/2020 (archived below)
We, the members of the Kucenas Lab, stand in solidarity against racial injustice, police brutality, violence, and hatred. We are disgusted and ashamed by the persistent, blatant killings motivated by systemic hatred and oppression of historically-excluded minorities, including the murders and lynchings of Black and Indigenous people deeply rooted in our nation’s history. We stand as allies in the fight against systemic racism. As a group, we are completely intolerant of all forms of prejudice, discrimination, and injustice in our lab, department, university, community, and nation. We know that change comes from us, and we strive to create a more inclusive environment within our lab and department. Scientific discovery can only truly flourish when we include diverse perspectives and backgrounds that span the full range of the human experience in our communities, universities, and labs. Science as an institution is historically entrenched in racism, inequality, and exploitation that still persists today. Therefore, we will hold ourselves and our university accountable for acknowledging and redressing these deplorable injustices in order to build a more inclusive and just institution. We encourage others to stand with us and denounce racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, religious discrimination, transphobia, ageism, ableism, misogyny, and bigotry in all forms. Moving forward, the Kucenas Lab pledges that alongside our mission of scientific discovery, we will consciously invest in the following activities:
- We will remain open to learning from others and owning up to our mistakes.
- We will be open to change and not be afraid to suggest change when and where change is needed.
- We will foster an environment where all individuals are championed, feel safe, and are encouraged to share their ideas, conduct science, and flourish.
- We will use our voice to speak out against injustice and bigotry in all forms, despite any fears, hesitancies, and discomfort.
- We will deliberately increase inclusivity in our lab and our department by recruiting scientists from all walks of life, and will explicitly advocate and recruit Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQIA+ people, people with disabilities, women, and non-US citizens at all ranks of our institution*.
- We will encourage diversity and inclusion as both researchers and educators in every meeting, classroom, and event we attend.
- We will publicly acknowledge and demand that our lab, our department, our university, and our community, can, and must, do better.
- We will keep ourselves, our peers, our department, and our university accountable.
Together, the Kucenas Lab will promote diversity, inclusion, and equity in science, and we encourage others to stand with us in our mission.
*These groups and definitions are evolving, and we acknowledge that the terminology here may not be the preference of all individuals within these groups. These groups are not exhaustive or mutually exclusive, and we recognize that many individuals’ identities are at the intersection of multiple groups.
**This is a living document. As we learn, listen, and grow, we will continually update and add to this statement with the hope that many of these goals become ingrained in our culture and institution. We will also propose specific action items related to these goals in the coming weeks and months. We encourage people to share, engage, and hold us accountable as we move forward.
- We will participate in discussions/learning sessions, such as book clubs and seminars, about historical and present BIPOC contributions to STEM fields as well as the history of racism in science. We will also support and participate in department, university, and community efforts to increase inclusive excellence, which could include signing and sharing petitions, attending town hall meetings, and other actions.
- Outcome metric: Once a month, the Kucenas Lab will have a collaborative, anti-bigotry learning and discussion meeting, focusing on a shared text, podcast, or news article. We will also give space to share recent or upcoming events related to DEI and anti-bigotry.
- We will discuss and highlight articles by BIPOC/LGBTQIA+/people with disabilities/women scientists/non-US citizens/early career researchers (ECR)* as much as possible. We will feature these authors and their work on our website so that others can also learn about them.
- Outcome metric: The Kucenas Lab will strive to always feature articles written by BIPOC/LGBTQIA+/people with disabilities/women/non-US citizen/early career researchers in science in all forums (e.g., journal clubs, seminars, and symposia). Synopses of JC discussions will be published on our website and Twitter.
- Our recommendations for seminar speakers will include BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ people, people with disabilities, women, non-US citizens, and ECR as much as possible.
- Outcome metric: We will work to keep the Biology and Neuroscience department accountable for choosing seminar speakers who are BIPOC/LGBTQIA+/people with disabilities/women/non-US citizens/ECR.
- We will participate and/or organize outreach to local schools to enhance science literacy and interest in science careers.
- Outcome metric: The Kucenas lab will partner with UVA outreach initiatives (ex: BOIP, LEAD, Brain Awareness Week) to actively participate in outreach efforts.
- Progress: Kucenas lab members have led several outreach events with local schools in the past year, including working with STAB high school students, participating in Brain Camp, and hosting a table at the Charlottesville Farmer's Market. We also helped establish relationships with a local community college to give research talks and encourage students to apply to graduate school.
- We will support implementing required implicit bias training for trainees, staff, and faculty in the department.
- Outcome metric: Newly hired and existing trainees, staff, and faculty will complete implicit bias training every year.
- Progress: As of Summer 2021, UVA now requires UVA faculty and employees to complete implicit bias training. Biology graduate students are required to complete this annual training.
- We will work with our community to petition to establish a library of books, articles, and theses that address racial bias and injustice in science as well as highlight works of BIPOC/LGBTQIA+ people/people with disabilities/women/non-US citizens/and ECR in science.
- Outcome metric: Support, actively contribute, and demand accountability of the Biology department’s efforts of creating such repositories.
- We will establish a summer internship in our lab for BIPOC/LGBTQIA+ people/people with disabilities/women/non-US citizens undergraduates (either from UVA or HBCUs and community colleges in Virginia) to provide an opportunity to gain research experience.
- Outcome metric: The Kucenas Lab will participate in existing research programs (ex: SRIP, Virginia-North Carolina Alliance) to provide BIPOC/LGBTQIA+ people/people with disabilities/women students with research experience.
- We will actively recruit students who are BIPOC/LGBTQIA+ people/people with disabilities/women/non-US citizens from Virginia high schools, HBCUs, community colleges, and Womens’ Colleges to apply to UVA, UVA Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP) or UVA Biology Graduate Program.
- Outcome metric: Program coordinators of NGP and Biology will plan and attend recruitment events at HBCUs.
- Progress: NGP and Biology have routinely attended Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) and Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conferences to recruit students. Additionally, NGP and Biology has begun to form relationships with undergraduate institutions with diverse student populations with the hope of cultivating pathways for students interested in graduate school.