Faculty and graduate students in the news – C&EN

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Professor Hosea Nelson and PhD students Sophia King and Ani Mustafa quoted in article discussing how chemists are acting against racism and inequality in STEM. 

Nelson is an assistant professor of organic chemistry, King is a fourth-year chemistry graduate student in Professor Sarah Tolbert’s group and Mustafa is a second-year chemistry graduate student in Professor Patrick Harran’s group.

Department Chair Professor Neil Garg called for the town hall safe space discussion which is mentioned in the article. At the June 8th online event, which was attended by over 225 faculty, students, postdocs and staff, Garg served as moderator and invited attendees to “freely share opinions and perspectives, educate one another, and be proactive in countering racism and discrimination”. Garg said that the town hall was just the beginning of the department’s efforts to address the very important issue of racism and inequality in STEM.

C%26EN Article

Professor Hosea Nelson, chemistry graduate students Sophia King and Ani Mustafa.

Excerpted from C&EN article by Jyllian Kemsley:

Chemists #ShutDownSTEM to reflect on diversity in science

Researchers and scientific societies are taking off June 10 to address racism and representation

As people continue to march in the streets in the US and elsewhere this week to protest racism and police brutality against Black people, scientists are also organizing to address inequities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields and academia.

Under the banners of #ShutDownAcademia and #ShutDownSTEM, these scientists call for non-Black scientists around the world to step back from their usual work to educate themselves and develop concrete actions to promote change. “Wednesday June 10, 2020 will mark the day that we transition into a lifelong commitment of actions to eradicate anti-Black racism in academia and STEM,” the organizers say. “Your plan should include an actionable goal, steps you will take to reach your goal, and metrics/indicators you will look for to know whether you are successfully moving towards your goal.”

For some chemists contacted by C&EN, such action is an extension of work they’re already doing. “As a Black person, I have yet to find a way to avoid racial issues in science, so my group lives it through me in many ways,” University of California, Los Angeles, chemistry professor Hosea Nelson says. “Given that the current pandemic is disproportionately affecting Black people, we feel that continuing our current coronavirus work is in perfect accord with the Black Lives Matter cause.”


Other chemistry departments, including those at Brown University, Harvard University, and UCLA, are holding town hall meetings on diversity issues this week.

“When I leave the boundaries of UCLA, I’m still a black man in America,” UCLA chemistry graduate student Ani Mustafa says. At UCLA’s discussion on Monday, he shared that a person in his neighborhood, 5 minutes away from campus, brandished a rifle at him when businesses were being boarded up in anticipation of looting following recent protests.

He would like to see UCLA and other schools tackle racism and diversity with the same attention and resources as they did COVID-19. “We need to take actionable measures to limit and prevent it as much as we can,” he says, referring to racism and inequality.

He hopes such action will come out of #ShutDownSTEM, although he worries people will feel obligated to participate given recent events in the country and not really engage. “Once the protests are over, the reality of being Black in America will not go away, the reality of being a Black STEM student will not go away, unless we’re met with action items that are measurable,” Mustafa says.

In particular, he and another graduate student, Sophia King, say that they’d like to see UCLA and other chemistry departments put more resources into recruiting and retaining students of color. “I’ve had prospective students ask me what it’s like being a black student in my department,” King says. “I had to say that it’s isolating. You’re just alone.”

Read the full article here.


Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.