Impacts of COVID-19 on Mentorship of Biology Graduate Students (multi-institutional)

Graduate students play a key role at many universities; they conduct research but also serve as mentors and teachers to a large portion of the undergraduate population. COVID-19 has caused disruptions in every part of campus and impacted how graduate teaching assistants teach (i.e., moved to online teaching or socially distanced teaching), how they engage in research (i.e., lack of access to field sites and lab spaces), and how they are mentored in both teaching and research. In collaboration with Dr. Joshua Reid at Middle Tennessee State University, Dr. Lane and undergraduate research intern Zoe Koth are conducting lifegrid interviews with life sciences graduate students to better understand how national events such as COVID-19 impact the mentorship graduate students are receiving.

Explicit and Implicit Expectations of Degree Completion for Life Sciences Graduate Students

Recently, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a call for research and action related to reforming and understanding science graduate education in the United States. As an initial step into understanding the experiences of graduate students, we are interested in the expectations of graduate degree programs. We are beginning by understanding the formal expectations of programs. Undergraduate research interns Osob Abas and Travis Stratton are currently conducting document analysis of graduate student handbooks in order to describe the types of expectations that life sciences graduate programs formally share with their graduate students.

Creating a More Gender Inclusive Biology Curriculum (multi-institutional)

Gender inequities have been regularly identified in biology education; however, students whose identities do not fit into the inaccurate gender binary have oft been overlooked in studies of gender inequity in biology. A key cause of these inequities is the concept of gender essentialism, the belief that genders, and gender roles, are natural, biologically derived categories: that there is a “natural essence” of femaleness or maleness influencing behaviors and proficiencies. Gender essentialism can impact students of all genders in variety of ways including 1) promoting stereotypes of all genders especially of women, trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students, 2) inhibiting students from accurately learning biology concepts, and 3) disregarding the lived experiences of gender diverse students. In collaboration with Dr. Aramati Casper at University of Colorado- Boulder and Dr. Sarah Eddy at Florida International University, we are investigating how gender diverse students experience biology content focused on sex and gender, how faculty teach sex and gender, and what factors co-vary with faculty understanding of the required nuance to accurately teach sex and gender.