In the Kucenas Lab, we value and welcome all individuals regardless of how we look, who we love, where we came from, what we believe, 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 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 recognize and value the contributions of individuals from historically-marginalized races and ethnicities to our community, our lab, our university, and the broader scientific community.
We stand in solidarity against transphobia, directed violence, legislation to remove human autonomy, and infringement on the rights to live and love of members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We are disgusted and ashamed by the spread of misinformation about transgender individuals and other members of the LGBTQIA+ community and the attempts by the local, state, and federal government to restrict the human autonomy guaranteed to these members of our society and restrict their freedoms. We recognize and value the contributions of individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community, to our lab, our university, and the broader scientific community.
We stand in solidarity against religious discrimination, directed violence, and ethnic cleansing. We value the rights of all individuals to express their religious, cultural, and ethnic identities without the threat of violence and persecution. We are disgusted and ashamed at the ongoing antiSemitism and Islamophobia and violence towards individuals on Grounds, in our community, and across the globe.
As a group, we are completely intolerant of all forms of prejudice, discrimination, and injustice in our lab, department, university, community, nation, and world. 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, discrimination, 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 as well as those individuals and institutions who propagate this hate.
We seek to be a place where everyone's unique identities can be celebrated and pursue and excel in science in a safe, inclusive, and accepting environment. 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 for and recruit Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQIA+ people, people with disabilities, women, people with diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, 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 and learning sessions about historical and present BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ contributions to STEM fields as well as the history of racism and transphobia in science. We will feature these authors and their work and learn about them. 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: The Kucenas Lab will highlight the life and achievements of a member of an underrepresented group each month during lab meeting as well as publicly display their images and story and challenge other labs to participate.
- 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 Graduate Program 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 and continue to lead several outreach events with local schools, including working with STAB and Charlottesville high school students, participating in Brain Camp, Magnify, 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 inform students who are BIPOC/LGBTQIA+ people/people with disabilities/women/non-US citizens from Virginia high schools, HBCUs, community colleges, and Womens’ Colleges on how 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.