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Biology Department's diversity committee (clockwise from top left): Lauren Carley, Brandie Quarles, Jacob Harrison, Julia Notar, Jonathan Colen, Niba Nirmal, Irene Liao, Ariana Eily, and Karla Sosa
Biology Department's diversity committee
(clockwise from top left): Lauren Carley, Brandie Quarles,
Jacob Harrison, Julia Notar, Jonathan Colen, Niba Nirmal,
Irene Liao, Ariana Eily, and Karla Sosa.

Biology Ph.D. Program

Dean’s Award for Inclusive Excellence in Graduate Education


The Biology Department at Duke has a long-standing reputation of cutting-edge thinking and collaborative excellence. More recently, the department has taken significant initiative to foster an even more inclusive environment and diverse community of scholarswithin the programs.

Through advocacy by its Ph.D. students and support from its faculty and administration, the department has created recurring and deliberate avenues for feedback and constructive criticisms. These avenues have helped the department identify weak spots and then strengthen them by developing targeted programming, curricula, and administrative guidelines. For example, since 2016 the department head has hosted a “Doughnuts for Diversity” event that is hosted at least once per semester and is designed to facilitate open conversations surrounding diversity and equity in the department. These events created a formalized avenue for feedback between students and administrators.

Gustavo Silva (far left) poses for a picture with other graduate students in the biology department.
Gustavo Silva (left) is one of the biology faculty members
who have taken action to increase the recruitment,
retention, and graduation of graduate students from
a diversity of backgrounds.

Also in 2016, the department chair developed formal departmental guidelines regarding diversity and bias, which are distributed to faculty, staff, and graduate students once per academic year to sustain awareness about those issues. Department administrators have also consistently dedicated financial resources for and supported faculty participation in events aimed at increasing inclusion, diversity, and equity.

Graduate students and faculty have collaborated to develop programming to help meet the needs of the community regarding diversity and inclusion in graduate education. Examples of such programming include workshops addressing topics such as  gender and sexual diversity, disability, implicit bias, and the ethics of representation in STEM.

Ariana Eily (far right) engages in conversation with other graduate students in the biology department.
Graduate students such as Ariana Eily (right) have
played a leading role in the Biology Department's
efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive culture.

The department’s dedication to building inclusive classrooms is seen through guidance and tools provided to faculty and teaching assistants. The department offers training in tools to mitigate implicit bias and recognizes faculty participation in the Teaching for Equity Fellowship Program—an immersive training focused on engaging students with issues of race and identity in the classroom. Additionally, the department provides guidelines of simple suggestions that create a more well-rounded classroom. These actions include taking care to select character names for fictional examples that reflect diverse backgrounds and highlighting the contributions of outstanding scientists who are not white, cisgendered, heterosexual males.




Five members of the Biology Department's diversity committee pose in front of an on-campus building.
Members of the Biology Department's diversity committee

“In higher education, creating a supportive and inclusive classroom is a critical component of creating and maintaining diverse communities. The Biology Department has demonstrated a commitment to providing guidance and tools to faculty and graduate teaching assistants to build inclusive learning environments in which all students can explore, learn, and grow to their full potential.”

"In recent years, the department has taken several key actions to foster inclusion and equity. These efforts deliberately solicit and build upon feedback from the community, so top-down actions that are taken are always directly linked to community needs rather than individual administrative initiatives."