February 2020 Researcher Spotlight- Patricia (Paty) Jaimes

The February 2020 GER Spotlight is Patricia Jaimes (Paty), a PhD Candidate at Geocognition Research Laboratory at Michigan State University. This laboratory, housed in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, encourages interdisciplinary geoscience education research across a wide ranged of disciplines (higher education, sociology, political science, community sustainability, philosophy, etc.).

What is the focus of your current geoscience education research?

Generally speaking, my research focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM. Lack of diversity in STEM is a major problem, particularly in the geosciences. Much of the research around diversity in STEM utilize a deficit-based research model where minority students are depicted as being high risk and unprepared for scientific careers. My research aims to shift away from those deficit-based perspectives toward an assets-based approach for understanding how to increase diversity in the geosciences. I am exploring the resources and assets that minority scientists utilize in order to persevere in their scientific careers. Those assets and resources are in the form of capital, both monetary and non-monetary assets that minority individuals utilize to succeed in life. The most recognized forms of capital often used in STEM Education literature are social capital and cultural capital. Education researchers have shown that other forms of capital exist, in particular among underrepresented communities. These other forms of capital often go unrecognized and are undervalued in science, but are crucial for minority individual's educational and professional success. I am building on this work to explore how minority scientists employ the use of different capitals in pursuing geoscience and scientific careers.

What type of project would you like to collaborate with other researchers on?

I would love to continue working on projects related to access, equity, inclusion, and justice in geoscience/STEM. A major problem with traditional diversity increasing initiatives in STEM (i.e. summer research or bridge programs) is that most disciplines only focus on recruiting scientists from URG's into their fields but provide little to no support once an individual is in the discipline causing many folks to leave STEM. Despite years of efforts to diversify the sciences, the scientific workforce is still very white, male, and able-bodied! This tells us that those efforts are NOT working! Something needs to change. In order to truly diversify the scientific workforce, scientific leaders and researchers need to focus not just on recruitment but also on the restructuring of the traditional academic and scientific systems in order to make them more inclusive (and increase retention). Someone once said to me "a diverse space does not mean an inclusive space, but by definition an inclusive space is a diverse space." I think that in order to get to a truly diverse scientific workforce we need to work on creating an inclusive and accessible scientific community. Science (and academia) are rooted in racist, misogynistic, and ableist norms. Recruiting individuals from URG's into STEM disciplines without doing the work to enact any structural changes means bringing those individuals into racist, misogynistic, and ableist spaces and expecting them to accept and adapt to that environment. Scientific leaders and researchers need to do more if they truly want to diversify the scientific workforce. Diversity should not be the end-goal in STEM but rather being inclusive, accessible, and equitable. I would love to collaborate with other researchers who are also interested in this type of work.

What does GER look like at your institution, in your position?

I am a graduate student in Dr. Julie Libarkin's Geocognition Research Laboratory. We are housed in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department which is in the College of Natural Science. The graduate students in our lab work with multiple across campus, in all sorts of disciplines (higher education, sociology, political science, community sustainability, philosophy, etc.) Dr. Libarkin is very supportive and encourages her students to form interdisciplinary research connections with other students and faculty at our university.