How does the universe work? Promoting diversity can help answer that.

Published on: Sep 29, 2023

Photo credit: Phimwilai/ Adobe Stock

Science has been considered a purely objective field of study that has produced research to cure diseases, map out the anatomies of living things and explore our planet and the universe. But UC Berkeley Bioengineering Professor Aaron Streets says it is important for those who conduct that research “to represent the full diversity of human genetic variation.”

And while equity and justice are important, he said, it goes beyond that.

“Scientific research runs the risk of not comprehensively addressing the broad range of public need if our scientists only represent a narrow range of genotypes,” said Streets, whose bioengineering lab on campus conducts research on microscopy, microfluidics and single-cell genomics. “It matters who is doing the science.”

Streets was recently honored with Berkeley’s 2023 Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Equity and Excellence. While certain states around the country are currently moving to eliminate public education funding for various diversity, equity and inclusion programs — efforts led by politicians who devalue the importance of that work and research — Streets has been a tireless advocate for increasing diversity in STEM.

Through his Next Generation Faculty Symposium — a joint initiative between Berkeley, Stanford University and UC San Francisco that aims to diversify faculty recruitment pools at universities — Streets has given STEM postdoctoral candidates from underrepresented communities an opportunity to showcase their work and research to the masses.

And Streets’ Bioengineering Scholars Program has introduced first-year undergraduates — many from historically underrepresented groups — to STEM research through a mentoring program focused on recruitment and support.

Berkeley News spoke with Streets recently about why Berkeley has become an ideal place for DEI work, how diversity can help bring new and necessary perspectives to STEM research and academia, and the intersection of his two passions, art and science.

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