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  • ENGAGED RESEARCH: Shining a light on EDI

    Tuesday, September 19, 2023
    News Releases
    Lori Lee Pike photo

    Grenfell Campus, Memorial University, physicist takes on Chair role focused on the importance of inclusion in STEM

    Dr. Svetlana Barkanova is committed to connecting with underrepresented groups and engaging them in the world of science.

    Today, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) announced that Dr. Barkanova is one of three Atlantic chairs who will reach out to underrepresented groups and individuals, encouraging them to discover the myriad of opportunities available in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

    Known as Atlantic Chairs for Inclusion in Science and Engineering (A-CISE), the NSERC initiative also includes co-chairs Dr. Stephanie MacQuarrie (Cape Breton University) and Dr. Kevin Hewitt (Dalhousie University). A-CISE aims to reach a broad range of underrepresented groups, including women and gender minorities, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, racialized groups, and members of LGBTQ2+ communities, with a particular focus on First Nations and French communities, African Nova Scotians and remote and rural areas.

    The team will receive $305,000 per year for two years, which includes funding to support postdoctoral researchers to help the chairholders maintain their research activities during their tenure as CISE Chairs. Additional support for the Chairs will be provided through contributions from the host universities and the Chairs' external partners. In addition, Memorial University's Faculty of Science is contributing $20,000 "to support SJ-based programming to increase recruitment and retention of Indigenous Peoples, racialized groups, members of LGTBQ+, Persons with disabilities, and women into STEM programs."

    Dr. Barkanova, professor of physics at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland, is an internationally acknowledged researcher in subatomic physics theory. She brings the equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) lens to all her leadership roles at the regional, national and international level, striving to improve climate for underrepresented groups in both research and education. Her science outreach program for girls, Indigenous youth, and students in rural and remote areas that Dr. Barkanova developed in collaboration with Qalipu First Nation is engaging hundreds of students every year.

    "It is an honour to continue my outreach work through A-CISE, partnering with Dr. MacQuarrie and Dr. Hewitt, to increase the involvement of women, Indigenous peoples and other underrepresented groups in STEM," she said. "As a team, we will focus on recruitment to and retention in STEM fields by offering a variety of programs which build upon successful local initiatives, extending them regionally and nationally."

    Six initiatives will be scaled up to become regional flagships, offering continuity with the Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE) as well as successful programs currently offered, such as Dr. Barkanova's Physics in the Rural Classroom.

    Regional initiatives to be introduced include

    • the A-CISE scholar employment program, which addresses the critical grade 9/10 year when students are making the decision to enter STEM
    • Indigenous Science (In.Science) led by Unama'ki College
    • a national/regional speaker role model roster and fund to subsidize the travel and accommodation of speakers to Atlantic institutions
    • a regional connection on the occasion of the total Solar eclipse – April 8, 2024

    "We will collect resources and data to develop and effect policy and systemic change within our communities, ranging from elementary school impacts to tenure track processes," said Dr. Barkanova.

    Four policy and systemic change initiatives that will address critical issues in STEM include STEM Education policy with Departments of Education, outreach in tenure and promotion processes with deans of science and engineering, a science fair structure and inclusivity policy examination with Youth Science Canada, and a promising practice database development with graduate students. 

    "We've developed a strategic plan that launches new programing and builds upon successful and impactful programing that requires more resources," she said.

    For example, the Catalyze and Facilitate program is building upon former Atlantic CWSE's Partnership Funding program and will help to build upon already established programing or launch new programs.

    "Our programing covers K-12 and into professions and communities," said Dr. Barkanova. "Each of our strategies is connected to several objectives and concrete initiatives that will reach a broad range of underrepresented groups. Our partners include sponsors that will enable an Atlantic Canadian impact and Advisors that help us fill gaps in understanding and representation."

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