Reflection on the JEDI Scholars Program by Marcus Reid
This is a guest post by 2021 JEDI Biocollections Summer Scholars Program alum, Marcus Reid.
Prior to being accepted into this summer program I took a class that met in the Alameda building. Within the first couple of days, we took a brief tour throughout the facility, careful to maintain social distancing requirements. I distinctly remember standing on my tippy toes to see what specimens were in each drawer, which gave me a better angle to see what was being highlighted without encroaching on the personal space of others. I was immediately interested in what was behind each door, in each drawer, and display case. I realize it has been hard work get my foot in the door here.
Being included in this program has been the most tangible step towards working in a biocollection one day. The ability to work with the best researchers, scientists, Ph.D. candidates, and staff, has been incredibly impactful. Dr. Sangmi Lee, Dr. Liz Makings, Dr. Kelsey Yule, Dr. Kathleen Pigg Dr. Nico Franz, Dr. Laura Rocha Prado, Dr. Dakota Rowsey, Laura Steger, Dr. Nathan Upham, Dr. Andrew Johnston are just a few of the scientists that helped us burgeon over the summer. I was also thrilled to learn from and with three other scholars, Mary, Faith, and Savage. Every day as we learned techniques of preserving specimens, in an effort to advance science in the future, my sense of belonging increased. The planet and the biodiversity herein have managed to become increasingly more important to me.
Some of the extant fears we had were diminished as we had the opportunity to learn, be recognized, and allowed the space to make mistakes. Mammals’ week was the first time, in my memory, I didn’t run from everything within the order Rodentia. Botany week I was able to start putting aside the fear of incorrectly identifying desert flora, which has allowed me to become more competent. Learning about the fossil plant collection, learning bioinformatics, learning my all-time favorite insect Agraulis vanillae was imperiled, and when I learned about the Pepsis we found, were also impactful.
I have learned that it was easy for me to dismiss the flora and fauna that I was afraid of.
I also have realized that the more I learn, the more I can pay it forward.
As a black male, the last couple of years in the United States and being a student at ASU has been an arduous journey. Digging into pockets of resilience, occupying space in life sciences, and attempting to leave ASU better than I found it, has not been an easy task. Especially with the weight of the pandemic and all the systems that have been under scrutiny in the past and present disproportionately affecting my family, friends, and associates in our respective communities. With that said, I do believe we accomplished a lot as JEDI Scholars. At the commencement of the program, for the first time in a long time, I felt proud of myself.
Understanding that education, or lack thereof, is a determinant for many of the ills and perceived successes of our country, I understand that I have my work cut out for me in the future. This program has reignited my resolve to help increase inclusivity. Believing that this might ultimately help progress scientific discovery, make our communities more resilient, and most importantly, be challenging to actually do, make it very appealing to me.
Check out other posts by our program alumni outlining some of the highlights of this year’s ASU Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Biocollections Summer Scholars Program.