Diverse approaches strengthen our science, learning, and clinical practice. Diverse health care providers help bring better care to underserved communities. Diverse viewpoints make us all think more deeply.
Expresso has included quite a few stories about the need for an ever more inclusive and diverse UCSF community especially in regard to recruiting, hiring, supporting, and retaining underrepresented minorities and women to our faculty. It’s important to represent and reflect the communities we serve. Valuing and nurturing diversity makes us stronger together as a university and also makes our community better off – both locally and globally.
In this month’s issue, I take a look at the particularly low numbers of women and underrepresented minorities on our basic science faculty and shine a light on some promising attempts to change the composition of our academic ranks. These efforts have my full support, and that of the entire UCSF administration. The significant disparities are hardly limited to the basic science arena, of course – but I thought you’d like to know how we are trying to tackle an especially challenging problem.
Please read the full story along with my other two March topics:
- Who’s Not in the Basic Sciences: Going from underrepresented to represented
- Road to Mars: Preparing UCSF for the future of transportation
- What’s Under Your Sink: New technology enhances UCSF chemical inventory system (read this if you do lab research!)
Also, this month I invite you to the Cinema Expresso screening of Searching for Sugar Man on March 14 in Cole Hall from 6-7:30 p.m. This exceptional film (one of my first Expresso Tips) revolves around the life of singer-songwriter and urban poet extraordinaire Sixto Diaz Rodriguez – the elusive artist known as “Rodriguez.” Hailed as a “must-see” documentary in 2012, it received the Oscar in 2013. The evening is free with snacks provided.
Finally, should you have any thoughts on how to increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities within our ranks – in the basic sciences or other fields – or about anything else I’ve written or should be writing, please drop me a line at [email protected].
Who’s Not in the Basic Sciences: Going from underrepresented to represented
This is what I’m talking about! UC published a story last month entitled “Young, gifted and black: The next generation of researchers.” One of the students featured is UCSF grad student Muryam Gourdet, third-year PhD candidate in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics – lab of Geeta Narlikar. Muryam is off to a great start in Geeta’s lab, but what does the future hold for her?
For years, we’ve endeavored to recruit more women and underrepresented minorities to our faculty. Yet in many areas, our efforts have fallen short. Consider this: out of 210 basic science faculty, 19.5 percent are women and – even more striking – only 1.9 percent – that’s a mere four individuals – are members of underrepresented populations.
However you count it, the numbers are shockingly low (case in point is the poignant New York Times story I read the other day about black mathematicians).
We must do better by:
- Encouraging women and minority postdocs to stay in academia as they approach junior faculty positions. Attrition is indeed a factor.
- Providing the financial resources that make it possible to pursue a career in academia – especially in the Bay Area.
- Identifying effective mentoring techniques to ensure that students, trainees, and new faculty get the support they need, so they know what to do to succeed – and more importantly that they belong. Pay heed to this guiding principle of mentoring – people who look like you encourage you to imagine a bigger future for yourself.
- Recognizing the impact of intersectionality on team dynamics.
- Learning from data that supports why it’s necessary – diverse teams bring a different solution set along with different problem-solving abilities and methods, which can produce broader solutions.
The good news: we are investing resources in several areas to make sure UCSF not only strives to be diverse – but is diverse. Some of the key initiatives:
- In regard to equity and inclusion, UCSF administration continues to fund programs that support these values, e.g., Differences Matter.
- The Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA Scholars Program) focuses on postdoctoral researchers’ success in academia and promoting underrepresented postdocs into faculty positions by providing mentored research, grant writing, and teaching experiences, as well as overall academic career development. Independently of the main program, IRACDA also hosts senior graduate students from across the nation to interview with labs here, in an effort to increase the underrepresented minority population by 20 percent through an effort known as Path to Postdoc. To support the effort, the chairs of the five basic science departments – Anatomy, Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, Microbiology and Physiology – were eager to jump on board and support the program financially.
- UCSF alum Michael Penn has returned to campus as a consultant to the Office of Diversity and Outreach. Michael grew up in San Francisco, attended Lowell High School, and was the first African-American to complete UCSF’s MD-PhD program in 2003. He brings a wealth of experience as co-founder of a nonprofit, Building Diversity in Science, which encourages college students of color to pursue advanced degrees in science and give serious consideration to science as a platform for launching their careers. The other co-founder is UCSF postdoc alum Frederick Moore.
- Part of the School of Medicine Dean’s Diversity Fund and established in 2015, the John A. Watson Scholars program supports the recruitment and retention of faculty who share the university’s commitment to diversity and service to underserved or vulnerable populations. John Watson’s UCSF career spanned 46 years, and he is one of the pioneers for diversity, an inspiring mentor, and a tenacious scientist.
- Faculty searches at UCSF now must incorporate diversity within the selection process. The Faculty Equity Advisor Program is composed of 9 senior faculty members and the vice chancellor of Diversity and Outreach, who serve to facilitate best practices in the faculty recruitment and hiring process, including education and training focused on unconscious bias and potential obstacles that impede our ability to recruit women and underrepresented minorities.
- In addition, last spring with the Office of Diversity and Outreach at the helm, we implemented the requirement that candidates for faculty positions must complete a “contributions to diversity” statement, because diversity and diverse life experiences – such as a capacity for mentoring, or teaching individuals who are marginalized or underrepresented – are key to our ability to thrive as a community.
I encourage everyone to avail themselves of the events that provide opportunities:
- March 8 is International Women’s Day, and Campus Life Services – Wellness & Community, the UCSF Committee on the Status of Women, and Women of UCSF Health are excited to partner on the first International Women’s Day at UCSF with a broad program of events to mark the occasion, including the launch of a UCSF Women in Science website.
- Did you know that the NIH provides funding to attract minority trainees and faculty to research careers? On March 12, Get to know NIH Diversity Supplements (and congratulations to UCSF faculty who have recently received a Diversity Supplement!).
My many thanks to Carol Gross, Holly Ingraham, Renee Navarro, Michael Penn, and Anne Sufka for their contributions to this story – and more so, for their steadfast commitment and actions to make UCSF an academic environment in which everyone can be their best selves and realize their full potential.
Road to Mars: Preparing UCSF for the future of transportation
Do you find yourself driving down streets in San Francisco that you’ve never seen before thanks to Google Maps and Waze? With Chase Center, the new home of the Golden State Warriors, opening in September, folks at Mission Bay might be testing the limits of those apps in order to navigate the increasing traffic in the area – or better yet, ditching their cars and using alternative commute options. In exploring this topic, I got the sense that San Francisco is working to improve public transit to meet the neighborhood’s growth and minimize traffic – and so is UCSF Transportation Services.
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Senior Associate Vice Chancellor Clare Shinnerl leads the entire Campus Life Services (CLS) enterprise, which includes Transportation Services. Clare has a circa-1910 photo of San Francisco displayed in her office. In it, you see a horse and buggy making its way down the street as well as some early automobiles and a cable car.
“I think if you’d asked people back then, ‘Would we have more cars than horse and buggies?’ they probably would have said, ‘Oh, only the rich can have cars. People will always need the horse and buggy.’”
Clare has another photo that shows a group of people gathered around a desk – inside a car. The car has no steering wheel, no pedals, no driver. It’s basically a pod, moving people around as they conduct a meeting, then dropping them off at their destination. It’s quite a juxtaposition, and we’re undoubtedly closer to driverless cars and the reality of pods than we are to the horse and buggy days.
Clare’s job includes making sure that transportation works for our employees today, but that we’re also prepared to pivot towards what the future holds – like autonomous vehicles that drop off and pick up passengers, but don’t sit all day in a parking spot. “We don’t want to build a whole lot of parking garages just to find them empty in a few decades,” she says. UC San Diego already has built three garages with different ramps, ceiling heights, and ventilation systems so they can be converted, at least in part, into classrooms in the coming decades.
This is where Amit Kothari, UCSF’s new deputy director for Transportation Services, comes into the picture. Amit joined UCSF last month and has 28 years of transportation experience in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. It’s his passion. He sees it this way: “UCSF is unique. It’s all about health care and making life better for everyone. The same holds true for Transportation Services. We want to help make life better for the UCSF community.” Amit tells me that only 26 percent of our employees drive alone to work. We have the lowest single occupancy vehicle rate in the UC system!
That success is the outcome of a very heavy lift by Transportation Services and great cooperation from the UCSF community. Transportation Services has been increasing the number of electric car chargers in our garages, expanding shuttle services, partnering with bikeshare and scooter share companies, and providing vanpools and information for carpools, all designed to make getting to, from, and around our various locations easier. Here’s a brief overview:
- Last fall, Transportation Services unveiled new electric transit buses, moving toward its goal of an all-electric fleet.
- Red Scoots (electric scooter sharing) are available at Mission Bay and Parnassus and make it fun and easy to move to and from campus locations. (Remember to wear your helmet!)
- Bikeshare programs also available, from the city’s Ford GoBikes to upstarts like Jump and LimeBike. (Again: Bring your helmet!)
- We also provide space in our garages for Zipcars at a negotiated membership fee. Between these options, as well as Uber, Lyft, and public transit, many people are opting not to own cars. Ditching your car can save you money, simplify your life, reduce stress, and ease the pressure on our fragile climate.
- UCSF also encourages carpools and public transit by solving some of the nagging little problems. For instance, if you have to get home in an emergency, you can get reimbursed for the fare, up to $50 a year, by participating in the Guaranteed Ride Home (GRH) Program. Or if you need to drive in one day a week, you can get a special permit for a reduced $14 per day rate, so you don’t get stuck paying the public parking daily rate of $32.
- You also can use pre-tax dollars for many of these programs, which helps decrease cost.
And if you’re able, you can always hoof it up and down the hills of San Francisco and practice the Nepali Climb Step! Walking has been, is currently, and will continue to be in our future transportation plans for those able to do so. Have you gotten your steps in for the day? Just moving and standing will get your heart rate going – not to mention contributing to cleaner air for all! Another option is to telecommute, if your position allows it, and when it makes sense.
For now, traffic is a way of life and is bound to “drive” most of us up the proverbial wall, but you’re not sitting idly alone. The team in Transportation Services is keeping the pace – ready to shift gears to make our lives a bit better, one mile at a time.☺
What’s Under Your Sink? New technology enhances UCSF chemical inventory system
Think about a stereotypical garage, basement, or cabinet under the kitchen sink that stores a myriad of cleansers, oils, fluids, and plumbing concoctions. Now consider what that can be like at an institutional level – a recipe (literally) for disaster. That’s why there are rules and regulations to safeguard us and our facilities, and why we must adhere to them. And… technology is coming to the rescue!
As part of an overall campus-wide initiative to better ensure a safe work environment in our research buildings, UCSF is embarking on a review and update of chemical inventories – and it will be very, very helpful if you understand the importance of these efforts and do your part.
Leading this effort, our UCSF Office of Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) is working with researchers on a new comprehensive inventory system to better document and analyze the kinds and quantities of chemicals used or stored in UCSF buildings.
The project aims to apply new technologies to accurately track UCSF’s chemical inventories, ensure compliance with state fire code and other regulatory requirements, and inform the research community of best practices for the safe use, storage, and disposal of chemicals. If and when a chemical is no longer needed, wanted on site, or has expired, EH&S will properly dispose of the material at no cost to labs.
“This is a great opportunity for us to decrease the overall chemical load in our research buildings, and we strongly encourage labs to give us the chemicals they no longer use,” says Mark Freiberg, executive director of EH&S.
Following a successful 2018 pilot in Genentech Hall on the Mission Bay campus, UCSF inventory teams have now moved to Health Sciences West and Health Sciences East at Parnassus – the two towers known jointly as Health Science Instruction and Research (HSIR). Scientists in the adjoined 16-story buildings use many different types of chemicals.
Tracking through New Technology
Key to this new protocol is the use of a chemical inventory system that was developed by the University of California and successfully launched at UC Riverside. In the UCSF pilot in Genentech Hall, EH&S worked with Facilities Services, research lab managers, and scientists to provide additional training for faculty and staff on its use, as well as on safe chemical management and fire safety practices.
The new system uses radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to track every bottle of chemicals that comes on campus, enabling a current and accurate inventory of chemicals in research facilities through a database maintained and monitored by EH&S and accessible to individual labs.
“This system is replacing the old, homegrown chemical inventory system housed within the Research Information Online (RIO) tool, and is expected to greatly reduce the amount of time researchers spend tracking the chemicals in their labs,” Freiberg says. “Researchers in Genentech Hall report they are quite pleased with how the system is working.”
UCSF will phase in this new system across our vast research enterprise – in laboratories, clinical facilities, and other areas with hazardous materials. After EH&S teams complete their assessments in HSIR, they will turn to the Medical Sciences Building.
Improving Fire and Life Safety
In addition, as part of ongoing investments to improve aging facilities on Parnassus, UCSF has sought and received state funding for a capital project to update and improve fire and life safety systems in HSIR. This project will fund installation of fire sprinklers, improvements to fire-rated occupancy separation walls, and other measures.
Like many buildings on Parnassus, HSIR was constructed in the early 1960s in accordance with state fire code at the time. Fire safety codes have been revised many times since these buildings were originally permitted.
Revisions to fire codes have introduced requirements for overhead sprinklers to be installed in areas that are renovated or modified, and limits have been set on the maximum allowable quantities (MAQ) of chemicals in each “control area” within the building. The fire code now generally states that the higher the floor, the lower the MAQ of chemicals, partly because of the increased difficulty of accessing higher floors to extinguish a fire. Because of this, we are going to have to come up with some new approaches for meeting these MAQ requirements – the exact plans are TBD.
With funding to implement the new chemical inventory system and other fire and life safety improvements planned for HSIR, EH&S is reaching out to the HSIR community to schedule the new system’s rollout and to provide additional training on chemical management and fire safety. Find more information about this effort and a great FAQ on the EH&S website.
Many thanks for your cooperation with this very important endeavor!
Dan’s Tip of the Month
When you think about the pace at which technology advances, it’s pretty amazing. But what about how far human thinking has evolved? It’s just as intriguing. My friend and colleague Descartes Li sent me a link to a TED Talk given by renowned philosopher James Flynn. This “quick voyage over the cognitive history of the 20th century” focuses on “new habits of mind” that have resulted in dramatic changes to our critical thinking. Flynn’s keen use of analogy is an incredibly effective tool to illustrate the ways in which we’ve progressed – or sadly have not. Don’t be deceived by his delivery (quintessential espousement of philosophy) – the eighteen minutes go by very quickly.