Diversity and inclusion
Commentary: my thoughts on diversity and inclusivity toward my postdoctoral career (Nov 1st, 2022)
I value diversity, inclusivity and mentorship which can be demonstrated through outreach activities in Robogals Tokyo and communications with younger students in my current research group.
I learned the importance of inclusivity in communities through my outreach activities in Robogals Tokyo. I have engaged in the activities of Robogals Tokyo for three years and supported STEM education for elementary school students. In the Tokyo area, many robotics classes are currently offered, but they are usually not cheap and only children from wealthy families have access to them. To provide more opportunities to students, I took the initiative to give lectures to first-generation elementary school students from underrepresented groups in the suburbs of Tokyo once a month. When I gave the first lecture, the lecture contents were designed to have the students build a robot of a certain shape, but this teaching style did not attract much interest from the students. Therefore, I asked each student to draw a picture of the robot they wanted to build. I drew a blueprint based on the drawing and asked the students to build the robot based on the blueprint. As a result, each student became highly motivated to build the robot based on their own will. Since then, I have been eager to teach more classes to get more students interested in STEM. The classes were successful, but the number of participants for every lecture was still limited, and I felt that there was a better way to provide lectures to students to attend in their desired time. Thus, I recently released Youtube videos about how robots work for any student who wants to learn about them. Since the number of videos featuring robotics in Japanese is limited, I believe these videos will be beneficial for children, parents and teachers in Japan. Based on these activities at Robogals Tokyo, I have thought about how to offer every student an equal educational opportunity and I am intensely interested in supporting first-generation graduate students and other under-represented groups in Stanford.
Mentoring younger students has also been an essential factor for me to enhance my engagement in my community, and I look forward to contributing to Stanford in this aspect. I am strongly motivated to mentor students at Stanford based on my mentoring experiences for a few years. I have supervised five students for two years. The biggest challenge was providing personalized instructions to each student with different educational backgrounds and research projects. One student was assigned to the research project related to conjugated polymers, but he struggled to understand the conduction mechanism between the polymers. To enhance his understanding of the mechanism, I first explained the electron transfer mechanism in conjugated systems from scratch using an organic chemistry textbook. Next, I explained the mechanism of electron transfer between conjugated polymers and used molecular simulation software such as Gaussian to make it visually easier to understand. Another student entered the lab with very little knowledge of biology and was assigned a project on neural electrodes. First, I explained the neuronal activity at the macroscopic level using electromagnetism formulas which she was familiar with. After that, I carefully explained the structure of a single nerve cell at the microscopic level and the role of each part in the cell to have the minimum knowledge to start her research. Both of these students gradually matured to tackle challenges on their own. In this challenge, I gave thought to a myriad of teaching approaches through mentorship and have gained the skill to explain various mechanisms in my research more concisely. I hope to continue to provide my unique approach of instruction at Stanford so that each student can make use of their strengths to achieve results, while recognizing areas of improvement at the same time.
I appreciate all the experiences which have taught me the importance of diversity, inclusivity and mentorship. Upon studying at the Stanford Bioengineering department, I am eager to contribute to the diversity, inclusivity and mentorship programs by actively seeking collaborative research, new outreach activities and personalized mentoring approaches. It will also be interesting for me to explore possibilities beyond the limitaions of the community values with broader Bioengineering faculty and peers in. While we cannot give a fixed meaning to diversity, inclusivity and mentorship, it is essential to keep relativizing our thoughts in a quest for our better selves.
(especially for those who come from a non-traditional background
and/or are from a group underrepresented in STEM)
Robogals Tokyo - Online workshop about robot's movement
(Science Link Online 2021 on August 29th, 2021)
Robogals Tokyo - Workshop about robot's movement
(Festival at University of Tokyo on May 18th-19th, 2019)