The MIT Department of Biology promotes diversity and inclusion as one of our core values. We welcome and encourage talented individuals of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities, and individuals with disabilities, to participate in the Department’s teaching and research endeavors. One of our strengths is a diverse community of scientists, trainees, and staff who share a vision focused on education and discovery, who treat each other respectfully, and who value the contributions of each person.
Together, we work to understand the foundations of life, and to bring new knowledge to bear on some of the world’s most difficult and pressing problems related to human health, energy, food, and the environment. We advance our collective pursuit of intellectual, creative, and technical excellence by recruiting talented thinkers and doers from all backgrounds and experiences to contribute distinct perspectives and skills.
The Biology Department continually strives to increase the number of underrepresented minority faculty, students, and staff in our community, and to ensure that all feel welcome. In addition, we continually work to make our community accessible to all qualified individuals. In partnership with the university, we place high value on creating and maintaining a supportive environment for studying, working, and living that promotes physical and mental well-being and allows each individual to reach their full potential.
The department has begun producing annual diversity reports. You can view the most recent report here.
View 2023 Diversity Report (Kerberos login required)
In 2022, the department, with leadership from the Faculty DEI Committee and DEI Officer, launched the MIT Biology Catalyst Symposium. This symposium is part of a new effort to bring outstanding postdocs from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds in science to engage with members of our community. Aimed specifically at postdocs pursuing academic careers, the three-day symposium provides a venue for participants to share their research, discuss exciting new directions, and make new professional connections. We will welcome eight Catalyst Fellows to campus for the first symposium in May of 2023.
“At MIT Biology, we are proud to identify and recruit students from a broad range of backgrounds, and to support them — with enthusiasm and empathy — on their journey through graduate school. I am gratified by the successes of our many students who never dreamed that they would do a PhD at MIT, but who are thriving and will go on to diversify and enrich the scientific community.” ~ Amy Keating, former Graduate Officer and current Dept. Head
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council
Established in January 2021, the DEI Council is comprised of students, postdocs, staff, and faculty representatives. The goals of this council are to more broadly and comprehensively understand and address the needs of the Department. Council members plan to gather information regarding the needs of community members, discuss and prioritize DEI-related issues, advise other entities in the department (e.g. Department Head, faculty DEI committee, Graduate Committee), and act on its own as appropriate.
DEI Faculty Committee
Established in July 2020, the DEI Faculty Committee focuses on DEI issues of particular relevance to faculty.
For more information regarding the council and committee members, visit the DEI page.
MIT Biology works to increase the numbers of diverse scientists, both at MIT and beyond. Mandana Sassanfar leads our outreach programs. She is the Director of Diversity and Science Outreach for the departments of Biology and Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS), and the Diversity Coordinator for the Center for Brains, Minds and Machines. Our outreach programs include:
Quantitative Methods Workshop
LEAH Knox Scholars Program
High School Field Trips to MIT
Summer Workshop for Teachers
“MSRP introduced me to a lot of people who shared my background and aspirations. Sharing both successes and challenges with these like-minded individuals made the whole summer experience better than I could have imagined. Being able to conduct science in this fast-paced environment while having fun also gave me more confidence in my own abilities.” ~ Alicia Zamudio, MSRP alum
In addition to these programs, we reach out to undergrads through campus visits and national conferences such as the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) meeting. We also partner with the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation (MassBioEd) to host professional development workshops for New England middle and high school teachers.
We want to make it possible for all passionate young researchers to apply to graduate school at MIT. All students in need are eligible for an application fee waiver. Please check the Graduate Admissions website to determine if you are eligible.
Prospective graduate students from underrepresented or non-traditional backgrounds may also fill out a Biology Application Assistance Program (BAAP) form. BAAP offers student-led application activities, including office hours and panels with current MIT Biograds, to help you prepare your application before submission. The deadline to fill out the BAAP form for this admissions cycle is November 15, 2022.
“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing talented, committed, and hardworking students — who often have limited opportunities at their home institutions — make the most of their time at MIT, and go on to enroll and succeed in the very top graduate programs in the country.” ~ Mandana Sassanfar, Director of Diversity and Science Outreach
Department and Institute Resources for Students
It’s not enough to recruit diverse scientists to our department; we also need to ensure they thrive once they arrive on campus. Student advisors are here to help! In addition, there are many departmental and Institute resources dedicated to ensuring your success at MIT and to help you navigate any challenges that arise.
In 2018, biology graduate students launched the Biology Diversity Community (BDC), a cross-disciplinary, student-driven group that fosters peer support for underrepresented students that unites a network of individuals throughout the biology community. The BDC focuses on creating a space for individuals and groups to communicate their varying perspectives in the MIT and broader scientific communities, and to discuss how to navigate barriers as graduate students.
“Continuing to build and support a thriving and diverse community of students, staff, and faculty was one of my highest priorities as Department Head. We launched the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion to further these goals, and we welcome suggestions and feedback from our community to create additional, concrete initiatives.” ~ Alan Grossman, former Dept. Head