Our mission in the Kim Lab is to create research and learning opportunities to a diversity of students, and promote an environment based on respect, inclusivity, equity, and compassion.
As a female academic whose is also a visible minority, pursuing a career in ecological research was not without challenges, in part because of the lack of opportunities and role models, but also due to racism and sexism in STEM. I grew up in a middle class family in Montreal, one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Canada, and my appreciation for the natural sciences stemmed from my childhood experiences outdoors in parks and gardens. As an undergraduate in one of the largest universities in Canada, female or minority role models in ecology were lacking and opportunities for gaining ecological research experience were limited. It was my undergraduate advisor who encouraged me to pursue graduate school in ecology because of my enthusiasm for her class in ecological theory. However, it wasn’t until grad school where the possibility of pursuing a career in research and teaching became a reality. By sharing stories about her struggles as a graduate student and woman in STEM, my PhD advisor inspired me to mentor other women and minority students, and whenever possible, use my past experiences and research to engage students in science.
As a mentor, I strive to make science accessible to people of all backgrounds. Three central tenets that guide my teaching and mentorship: (1) Breaking down barriers; (2) Encouraging critical thinking, and (3) Fostering learning and curiosity. All of these tenets have been shaped and influenced by my experiences as a minority and living in both large and small cities where socioeconomic and racial inequalities exist. From my own experiences, these injustices can limit the ability of students to pursue their desired career paths. To help overcome these obstacles, my goal as an instructor is to create opportunities that will lead students down their chosen paths (e.g. conducting research in my lab, attending scientific meetings to network, participating in campus workshops and field trips). I am a strong believer of “learn by doing”, therefore I create learning environments that promote independent thinking while providing guidance. In the classroom, I promote diversity by having classroom discussion where students teach each other and talk about their experiences at home, invite guest lecturers of varying backgrounds, read scientific papers from minority researchers, and use case studies from different parts of the world for tackling similar ecological problems. I know from experience that it is hard to envision yourself as a scientist when you come from a non-traditional personal or academic background. I hope to broaden people’s vision of who a scientist is by sharing both my science and the path I have taken to becoming a scientist.