The Duke Microbiome Center (DMC) leadership team is happy to announce that the co-recipients of the inaugural DMC Diversity Matters Award are Brianna Petrone and Claudia Gunsch. The DMC is committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion as fundamental to our center’s success and excellence (read more here). Our ability to achieve these ends relies on the initiative, leadership, and engagement of our center members. Launched in 2020, the annual Diversity Matters Award is designed to recognize individuals within the DMC that have made significant advances towards these ends within Duke and our broader scientific and geographic communities. We are very happy to recognize Brianna and Claudia as the recipients of this year’s DMC Diversity Matters Award for their contributions described below.
Brianna Petrone, MD/PhD student in the Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Program:
Brianna Petrone’s receipt of the DMC Diversity Matters Award recognizes her as an exceptionally thoughtful and empathetic student leader in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology’s (MGM) efforts to highlight and combat racism. As a MD/PhD student in the MGM Program, she helped organize MGM graduate students in the summer of 2020 to express their concerns about racism, which prompted a departmental town hall meeting and subsequent faculty discussion. That in turn led to the creation of a MGM Department policy roadmap document for addressing racism, which underwent a half dozen revisions via a departmental working group involving students, postdocs, and staff along with faculty. Brianna has been instrumental in organizing that working group, applying the same skills she demonstrated in her basic and clinical research: insightful perspective, balance and empathy, and organizational acumen. This working group, which was recently named MGM Action Group Against Racism (MGM-AGAR), is now moving into the action phase of the roadmap with Brianna’s continued organizational efforts, making a real impact on anti-racism efforts in the MGM Department, and setting a sustainable blueprint for the group’s long-term efforts. For her initiative, commitment, and effective leadership in these important and ongoing efforts, Brianna Petrone is a deserving recipient of this inaugural DMC Diversity Matters Award. To learn more about Brianna, go here.
Dr. Claudia Gunsch, Theodore Kennedy Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement, and Associate Director of the Duke Microbiome Center:
Dr. Claudia Gunsch’s receipt of the DMC Diversity Matters Award recognizes the leadership and vision she has displayed in the Integrative Bioinformatics for Investigating and Engineering Microbiomes (IBIEM) Training Program. IBIEM is a 1-year training program for early-stage Ph.D. students enrolled at Duke and North Carolina A&T State University, a historically black university in Greensboro NC. In 2015, Claudia took the initiative to organize and lead a successful application for a National Science Foundation Research Traineeship grant. In doing so, Claudia brought together faculty mentors from Duke and NCA&T with diverse background in microbiology, engineering, and computer science, recognizing that the next generation of microbiome scientist would need to be able to integrate and collaborate across such disparate fields. In accord, students that were eventually enrolled in IBIEM were intentionally selected from those three fields to ensure a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds. In addition, IBIEM brings together NCA&T and Duke trainees and faculty from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. IBIEM trainees then learn the value of different scientific and personal perspectives, how to communicate and collaborate effectively, and how to leverage that collective diversity to solve scientific problems. From 2015-2021, IBIEM has provided graduate students at Duke and NCA&T with new interdisciplinary competencies in microbiome science as well as opportunities to explore and understand diversity in ways that would have otherwise unavailable to them. Now in its final year of NSF funding, IBIEM provides a valuable roadmap for interdisciplinary training and HBCU partnership that Duke could build upon in different ways in the future. For her vision, leadership, and effort bringing the IBIEM program to Duke, Dr. Claudia Gunsch is a deserving recipient of this inaugural DMC Diversity Matters Award. To learn more about Claudia, go here.
The next nomination cycle for the DMC Diversity Matters Award will be announced in fall 2021. For further details on this award mechanism, go here.