Surviving as an underrepresented minority scientist in a majority environment.

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2015-11-01

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Abstract

I believe the evidence will show that the science we conduct and discoveries we make are influenced by our cultural experience, whether they be positive, negative, or neutral. I grew up as a person of color in the United States of America, faced with challenges that many had as members of an underrepresented minority group. I write here about some of the lessons I have learned that have allowed me to survive as an underrepresented minority -scientist in a majority environment.

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10.1091/mbc.E15-06-0451

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Jarvis, Erich D (2015). Surviving as an underrepresented minority scientist in a majority environment. Mol Biol Cell, 26(21). pp. 3692–3696. 10.1091/mbc.E15-06-0451 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11114.

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Scholars@Duke

Jarvis

Erich David Jarvis

Adjunct Professor in the Deptartment of Neurobiology

Dr. Jarvis' laboratory studies the neurobiology of vocal communication. Emphasis is placed on the molecular pathways involved in the perception and production of learned vocalizations. They use an integrative approach that combines behavioral, anatomical, electrophysiological and molecular biological techniques. The main animal model used is songbirds, one of the few vertebrate groups that evolved the ability to learn vocalizations. The generality of the discoveries is tested in other vocal learning orders, such as parrots and hummingbirds, as well as non-vocal learners, such as pigeons and non-human primates. Some of the questions require performing behavior/molecular biology experiments in freely ranging animals, such as hummingbirds in tropical forest of Brazil. Recent results show that in songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds, perception and production of song are accompanied by anatomically distinct patterns of gene expression. All three groups were found to exhibit vocally-activated gene expression in exactly 7 forebrain nuclei that are very similar to each other. These structures for vocal learning and production are thought to have evolved independently within the past 70 million years, since they are absent from interrelated non-vocal learning orders. One structure, Area X of the basal ganglia's striatum in songbirds, shows large differential gene activation depending on the social context in which the bird sings. These differences may reflect a semantic content of song, perhaps similar to human language.

The overall goal of the research is to advance knowledge of the neural mechanisms for vocal learning and basic mechanisms of brain function. These goals are further achieved by combined collaborative efforts with the laboratories of Drs. Mooney and Nowicki at Duke University, who study respectively behavior and electrophysiological aspects of songbird vocal communication.


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