BUFFALO, N.Y. — Faculty and staff from SUNY Buffalo State College and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center have designed a new fellowship to promote diversity in the growing field of genomics.
“With our help, we’ll be able to bring into this exciting field that has a lot of job opportunities and a lot of potential," said Joaquin Carbonara, PhD, chair of Buffalo State's Data Science and Analytics department. "We’re going to bring a lot of people that wouldn’t be able to do it without it.”
Roswell Park faculty member John Krolewski, PhD hosted a celebration to kick off the fellowship that will provide students from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds an opportunity to complete research at the cancer care center.
“This is a great funding opportunity," he said. "It meets a real society need to try to bring underrepresented minorities and disadvantaged students into STEM, and it’s going to be a lot of fun, too.”
Increasing representation in fields like data science and genomics isn’t about face value; it has a direct impact on what issues are addressed and how. For example, Krolewski explained how the gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas could solve a life-threatening medical trait that is found in about one in every 13 African Americans.
“The number one need it could meet in the U.S. is to treat sickle cell anemia, yet sickle cell treatment has lagged behind," Krolewski said. "A couple of other diseases, rare diseases, have been tackled first; not because they’re technologically easier, but because I think it’s the perspective of the people who got involved.”
Two Buffalo State students, both data science and analytics majors, are looking to change these types of inequities. Khalil Malcolm and Tasnesshade Stone are the fellowship’s first recipients, and both of them are already working to inspire the next generation of change-makers while becoming so themselves.
“Essentially, you can’t be something if you don’t see it,” Malcolm said. “So I hope that I can add to the representation.”
“I would definitely say do not let your skin color affect what you decide to do with your life," Stone said. "If you are passionate about something, go for it.”