The ‘Researcher Spotlight’ series shines a light on the work and varied career journeys of the researchers who publish with us. We want researchers to be able to share their own personal stories and help others draw inspiration and extract learnings that can serve as a guide for the next steps in their own careers. These interviews provide insights and advice from researchers in different career stages and fields, from those who are just getting started in research to more experienced researchers.
Dr. Kilan C. Ashad-Bishop, a biomedical scientist and advocate for inclusion who has carved her niche at the intersection of science, health, and social change, provides advice to researchers just starting out in their career and discusses the importance of empowering underrepresented scientists to utilize their expertise for social change.
I think we often romanticize straight paths when things are rarely that clean cut. Be open to a series of graceful pivots as you shape and reshape your work and longer term, your career. I would also encourage that researcher to always keep an asset lens. You bring so much to the table and that should be always kept centered, rather than falling into a deficit mindset where you focus on your shortcomings.
You bring so much to the table and that should be always kept centered, rather than falling into a deficit mindset where you focus on your shortcomings.
My goals are to conduct research that 1) dissects and destructs longstanding societal barriers to health among communities of color and 2) empowers underrepresented scientists to utilize both their scientific and lived expertise as tools of social change. To contribute to both of those fields of endeavor, I stay open to diverse types of professional development opportunities
The highlight of my academic career was my first funded grant proposal, and I know that’s cliché, but I went from cancer biology to education and it was through the support of an actual mentor that I received the first post-graduate validation of my research mind in a completely new field, if that makes sense. The Academy will never validate me, I validate me, but that doesn’t mean I’m immune to how good that acknowledgement felt.
Outside of that, I am super proud of STEMNoire, which is the signature program of a nonprofit organization I founded in 2019. STEMNoire is a first of its kind research conference and holistic wellness retreat for women of the African diaspora in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Next week, we will convene hundreds of Black women throughout the diaspora, providing resources and a community to contribute to diverse talent retention and success in STEM. The STEMNoire team and I are breaking the mold and creating the community we’ve been wishing for. It is so special.
Erykah Badu sang, “What good do your words do, if they can’t understand you” and that sums up how I feel about research communication. It’s great to have overarching ideas, findings, and to generate new knowledge, but I do this work for people who I want to understand the progress that we are making. Social media is a great tool for visibility, so are websites and other personal branding tools, but the most effective things in my experience are conversations.
Erykah Badu sang, “What good do your words do, if they can’t understand you” and that sums up how I feel about research communication.
This is new to me! As a doctoral student, I didn’t interface much with publishers. Now, I’m always asking questions and assessing the fit of potential articles and it is so educational. I just encourage establishing a connection with editors instead of treating them like they are online portals for article submission instead of real people.
Dr. Kilan C. Ashad-Bishop (she/her) is a biomedical scientist and advocate for inclusion who has carved her niche at the intersection of science, health, and social change. She is a proud alumna of Morgan State University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology, and the University of Miami, where she earned her Ph.D. in Cancer Biology. Kilan is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Miami and the Inaugural Director of the First Star National STEAM Academy. Her professional experience spans academic research, policy, and the nonprofit and private sectors, but her goal remains to improve the health and well-being of communities of color.
Kilan is an outspoken advocate for equity and inclusion in health, science and society and the responsibility of science (and scientists) to advance positive social change. She is a regular volunteer and advisor to various K-12 and collegiate STEM programs designed to mentor, uplift, and support the next generation of scientists.
In this interest, Kilan co-founded STEMNoire, a research and wellness community for Black women in STEM. Her advocacy efforts are interdisciplinary, as she previously served as the Vice-Chair of the City of Miami Climate Resilience Committee, where she leveraged her research background and community outreach to advance policies to prioritize low-income communities in resilience planning.
Colleagues and supervisors have recognized Kilan for excellence in her endeavors. She has been recognized as a Black Woman in Excellence (2020); National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow (2019); Edward Bouchet Graduate Honor Society Inductee (2018); New Leaders Council Fellow (2016); Legacy Magazine, 40 Under 40 (2016); and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Defining Pearl (2015).