We are a team of neuroscience graduate students at UC Davis with the aim of creating a platform for neuroscience scholars from historically underrepresented and excluded backgrounds. Our objectives: (1) to enhance the visibility of underrepresented scientists and their stories, including obstacles they have overcome in science and academia; (2) to enable underrepresented scientists to reach a broader scientific audience, especially aspiring young scientists from diverse backgrounds; (3) to facilitate candid dialogue between underrepresented faculty and students, particularly regarding their journeys in academia; and (4) to establish research connections and possible collaborations between our invited speakers and researchers at UC Davis.
We believe that achieving these objectives will enable our local and global academic community to become aware of and alleviate factors that have historically impeded the advancement of underrepresented groups in scientific and academic careers. Moreover, achieving these objectives will help to bolster the recruitment and successful career advancement of historically underrepresented persons in science and academia.
To achieve these objectives, SOMA has adopted a format which includes (1) a seminar series, and (2) an annual SOMA Summit.
Seminar series: The seminar series takes place annually in Fall through Spring quarter and invites speakers from underrepresented backgrounds, some of which are from basic neuroscience backgrounds (cellular, cognitive, developmental, molecular, systems, translational, etc), and some of which conduct social neuroscience or psychology research that directly investigates the neural and/or psychological underpinnings of implicit bias, racism, gender, and other factors that have been implicated in the historic underrepresentation of particular groups in academia. All invited speakers are asked to begin their seminar with a description of their journeys in academia as a minority, and then to talk about this research. This opportunity to share personal stories in the context of scientific research will enhance the audience’s awareness of underrepresented narratives in academia and broaden their perspective. A lunch and/or dinner is provided such that trainees (students and postdoctoral fellows) can directly interact with speakers, and additional meetings are arranged as possible between the speaker, faculty, and trainees.
SOMA Summit: The annual, end-of-year SOMA Summit is held on one half-day or full day in Spring quarter, and is comprised of one or more keynote lectures, workshops, discussions and/or brainstorming sessions focused on developing strategies to increase diversity and accessibility within the UC Davis community, and beyond.
Reading group: The bi-weekly reading group meets to discuss articles related to systemic injustices within academia and how we as scientists can actively combat these structural issues. Discussion questions are also provided by the moderator to guide the participants through the article and get our readers used to being comfortable with being uncomfortable. The goal is also to have our Neuro and greater UC Davis community become more aware and familiar with talking about existing systems within academia that prevent many historically excluded groups from feeling safe and supported.