The Department of Bioengineering is committed to advancing the frontiers of our field, and performing our research and educational mission, in accordance with the highest standards of ethical conduct. This is particularly evident in the training of our students. All bioengineering graduate students are required to take a core course in the Responsible Conduct of Research during their first year. This is a face-to-face course that involves lectures as well as online assessment through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI). Topics covered throughout this required work included ethical issues regarding the use of human and animal subjects and tissues, record-keeping, publications, authorship, conflicts of interest, and proper conduct within the scientific and research community.
In addition to this training as part of our graduate curriculum, graduate students’ mentors hold regular lab meetings that include training in the proper conduct of research and discussion when ethical issues occur within the lab. The mentors also meet with graduate students one-on-one or in small groups on a regular basis to discuss the details of their research work. These discussions include proper experimental techniques, record-keeping, and mentoring regarding interactions with collaborators, fellow graduate students, other professors, and undergraduates. This has included guidance on how best to mentor undergraduate research assistants including training them in these techniques to make sure that the highest standard of research conduct is maintained throughout the lab.
Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion
The field of bioengineering—at its very core—is interdisciplinary, collaborative, and translational. As we collectively strive to find solutions to critical challenges in the field, it is only to our benefit as scientists to draw from and celebrate the diverse experiences, identities, discoveries, and innovations of our community.
When the university announced the Rice Investment, the Bioengineering department took “talent deserves opportunity” as a call to action. While we have always valued the commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion resolved by Rice University trustees, faculty governance, and administration, we acknowledge that we have not always aligned our practices—including our hiring and admissions practices—with this commitment. We aim to continually and sustainably identify and correct the practices within our department that are not aligned with justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. We aim to make opportunities to work and learn in our department available, accessible, and inclusive to those who have for too long been excluded.
Toward these goals, we have taken the following steps:
- We established a faculty-student committee on justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
- We eliminated the requirement for GRE testing for applications to the PhD program.
- We eliminated the application fee to the PhD program.
- We developed a new seminar series focused on building an inclusive environment.
Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Committee
The Rice Bioengineering Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee meets monthly during the academic year.
- 2023-2024 Committee Members
Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Ph.D. Faculty & Chair
Kevin McHugh, Ph.D., Faculty
Jerzy Szablowski ,Ph.D., Faculty
Julea Vlassakis, Ph.D., Faculty
Sabia Abidi, Ph.D., Faculty
Buhle Moyo, Ph.D., Faculty
Viraj Ghosh, BIOE GSA Rep
Fariha Ahmad, BIOE GSA Rep
- Committee Priorities, Actions & Timeline
Priorities Completed Actions Ongoing, Planned, and Proposed Activities Timeline Diversity
- Build framework to collect/analyze/act on data for diversity in dept
- Reduce bias in recruiting / hiring processes:
- Faculty level
- Graduate student level
- Reviewed BIOE diversity data
- Eliminated GRE testing
- Competitive postdoc seminar series (Jerzy)
- Eliminated application fees starting Fall 2021
- Require DEI statement for faculty applicants
- Developing diversity dashboard
- Coordinate departmental outreach efforts to potential grad students
- Live by Spring 2021
- Conference schedule set by Feb. 2021
Equity & Inclusion
- Formally assess BIOE dept. climate
- Better support URM graduate student retention/success
- Educate ourselves and department about how to be better, more thoughtful, more empathic leaders, working to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusiveness are a hallmark of our dept.
- Moment of inclusion @ faculty meetings
- Grad student support: hidden curriculum seminar series
- Connect to larger university/school efforts
- Started Inclusion Seminar Series
- Planning DEI Journal/Book Club
- Organizational map by July 2021
- Department-wide starting Aug. 2021
- Champion culture of transparency & accountability between all members of BIOE community
- Create/recommend/improve mechanisms for accountability when DEI principles are not upheld
- Collected and shared current bias reporting processes to share
- Updated BIOE department webpage to include info
- Spring 2021
- 2021 Statements from the JEDI committee
Statement on hate crimes against AAPI, 18 March 2021
The faculty, students, and staff of the Bioengineering Department at Rice University condemn all violence against the Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. We are horrified and heartbroken about the recent murders of eight young women in Atlanta, six of whom were targeted because they were Asian. In our society and in our professional lives, we cherish and celebrate the contributions of our AAPI colleagues, friends, and family.
Due to COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially challenging to process these tragic events when we have so few opportunities to come together in person and support each other. We ask you to practice empathy and offer extra support and flexibility where possible to colleagues who may be struggling in these difficult times.
We stand with the broader Rice Community expressing our shock and deepest sympathy to the families of these women and other Asians who have faced hostility, discrimination, and attacks based on untruths, xenophobia, and smear campaigns. As a society, we must reckon with our biases and take steps to educate ourselves about the experiences of Asians in America.
With best regards.
Jane Grande-Allen, Rebecca Richards-Kortum and Gang Bao
Statement on Insurrection, 10 January 2021
On behalf of BIOE’s DEI committee, we’re reaching out in solidarity with our students, staff, and faculty. We are deeply disturbed by the storming of our nation’s Capitol last Wednesday. We condemn this unlawful act of the mob, which was intended to disrupt the democratic process of 2020 election certification. The striking differences between the police response to last Wednesday’s insurrection and last summer’s peaceful Black Lives Matter protests are a stark reminder of the hard work ahead for our country to dismantle racism and bigotry—both structural and overt.
While we all hoped for a brighter start to 2021, it is hard not to be disturbed and concerned by the events last week. We know many of us have been losing sleep and are having trouble focusing on work. It is difficult to process all of the troubling events in DC last Wed, especially when we’re all in semi-isolation due to the pandemic. We encourage those in supervisory and managerial roles to exhibit greater flexibility and compassion for their team members during this distressing time. For all department members, if there are things we can do to better support you during this difficult time, please let us know. We encourage everyone to check in with friends and colleagues and, for those who would like to speak with a professional, to take advantage of university resources such as counseling and the Employee Assistance Program.
On behalf of the department, we pledge to continue and accelerate our work to dismantle structural racism and bigotry in Bioengineering at Rice. We hope each of you will join us by committing to one new tangible outcome that you can take to end racism and support equity in STEM. We welcome opportunities to partner with you on your initiatives and recommend getting in touch with the DEI committee chairs (Drs. Rebecca Richards-Kortum and Jane Grande-Allen) if there's an initiative that you would like the department to support.
With best regards.
Gang Bao, Rebecca Richards-Kortum and Jane Grande-Allen