color—passing the torch. She emphasized that it is critical that women’s successes in the sciences be made visible to postdoctoral fellows, who critically need role models who have successfully arrived in advanced positions in academia in order to remain committed to that path themselves.
Patricia Taboada-Serrano, assistant professor in chemical and biomedical engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology, received her bachelor’s degree in Bolivia and master’s degree in Venezuela, completed her Ph.D. at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and did postdoctoral work at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Taboada-Serrano’s remarks focused on the importance of mentorship and institutional climate and culture.
She described the importance to women of color and other women of having strong mentors during the period when they are pursuing job interviews and selecting the institution where they will spend, at the very least, the early years of their career. She noted the importance of having mentors who provide guidance to talented women scientists on what questions to ask at institutions whose faculty they are considering joining, how to identify the characteristics of institutional climates in which they will thrive, and how to determine whether a potential institution has those characteristics.
Regarding university culture and climate, Taboada-Serrano stressed the importance of a woman of color understanding the culture and climate of the institution overall and her prospective department in particular. Job candidates must ask what their rights and resources are and must negotiate for what they need in terms, for example, of the tenure clock and family care policies. Job candidates need also to examine prospective institutions’ research cultures. As research becomes increasingly collaborative, junior women scientists need to ensure that their institution’s research climate is collaborative and that they will find outstanding collaborators in research areas allied with their own.
Taboada-Serrano called for senior women of color to actively offer their experience to the next generation of scholars and researchers. She envisioned a network—most likely online—where experienced women contribute their experience and offer guidance to the new talent rising through the ranks.
Gilda Barabino, professor of biomedical engineering and associate chair for graduate studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology spoke on her experience over the course of her career thus far. Barabino received her bachelor’s degree from Xavier University in chemistry and her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Rice University. Upon receiving her doctorate in 1986, Barabino was the fifth female African-American Ph.D. chemical engineer in the U.S. She joined the faculty of Northeastern University in 1989 and was the only African-American woman in a tenure-track position in chemical engineering in the country at that time.
Barabino emphasized the importance of context, notably the specific contexts that exist along the entire career pathway that includes the individual, the institution, and the interactions between them. She related common experiences of women of color in academia, approaching them from several directions. Her own research on sickle cell anemia was a subject chosen because she aimed to contribute to the African-American community, and she described