Summer Diversity Program: Year-End Update

The Summer Diversity Program, directed by Professor Marcello Pagano and managed by Jai Vartikar and Megan Scott, was another great success this year. The Department hosted 14 undergraduate students, 2 post-baccalaureate interns, and 5 visiting faculty from quantitative departments at institutions with a significant underrepresented minority population. The goal of the program, as always, is to increase the presence of underrepresented groups in Biostatistics and Computational Biology and build a diverse community of individuals at multiple stages of professional development with quantitative skills that can be applied in research, and extended to students in home institutions. The program provides intensive exposure to these fields through courses in Biostatistics and Epidemiology, collaborative research, afternoon and evening lectures, professional development workshops, field trips to various academic research and clinical centers, and mentoring and networking activities. The students, who came to the program timid and unsure, developed a lot of confidence and love of quantitative Public Health by the end of the six-week program. Indeed, most of the students, having tasted the appetizer this summer, have now applied for the main course at graduate school. You can view the video of our 2017 cohort as they reflect on their experience in the program.

The students came from across the United Stated and Puerto Rico: University of Nevada, Bowdoin College, Monterey Bay State University, Hampton University, Salem State University, University of Florida, Smith College, The College of New Jersey, California State University (Northridge), University of Puerto Rico, University of New Mexico, Cornell College, and California State University (Fullerton). The two interns were from Wentworth Institute of Technology and Simmons College. The visiting faculty came from the Arizona Indians Into Medicine Program at the University of Arizona, Mathematics Department at Texas Southern University, Department of Health Studies at Chicago State University, Department of Mathematics at Alabama A&M University, and Mathematics Department of Spelman College.

We were delighted that the Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Xiao-Li Meng, spoke at a dinner with the visiting faculty. The Assistant Dean for Faculty and Staff Diversity of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Betty Johnson, spoke at the annual symposium and also gave a professional development workshop to the students. Thanks to both of them. We also owe a debt of gratitude to all of the Department Chairs from the Harvard Chan School and many leading scientists from the Harvard Chan School and the Harvard-affiliated hospitals who took the time to give lectures to expose the students to a broad array of public health topics.

The annual symposium, held in July, was attended by approximately 70 people and featured the summer program students and post-baccalaureate interns who presented their research projects. Dr. Knashawn Morales, Associate Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania, was the keynote speaker. Her keynote talk was titled “Latent Variable Models: Applications in Aging and Obesity Prevention Studies.” The symposium also featured a lively and informative panel discussion with alumni of the program, including some from as far back as 1994.