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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion: ARCS Scholar Unites Research with Closing the STEM Gap

Posted on Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Tara McIntyre is making her voice heard on gender equality in the workplace, specifically for women working in STEM fields.

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) graduate student realized there were few women in leadership and mentoring positions within the immunology branch of biology. So she and two fellow scholars decided to change that reality and created the IgEquity organization (formerly known as ImmunoXX+) three years ago. 

According to McIntyre, IgEquity has three key initiatives: advocacy, transparency, and mentoring and outreach.

“We hope to build communities that support, empower, and elevate voices of women and nonbinary scientists while fostering connections between faculty, fellows, and trainees,” she explains. “We strive for advocacy and transparency of opportunities and policies, while dismantling gender-based discrimination and biases.”

In addition to leadership activities and symposia, the group is planning to launch a virtual mentorship program that provides support and resources for women and potential scientists at high schools, universities, and other organizations.

Twice an ARCS Scholar Award recipient (2018–20), McIntyre sees many similarities between IgEquity and ARCS Foundation. “Both organizations provide seed-stage scientists with resources and a platform to share their scientific work and achievements with others. Sharing our research and accolades with other STEM students and professionals is incredibly empowering.”

McIntyre says the ARCS Scholar Award has enabled her to spend more time in the lab and interact with leaders in STEM fields. “I love expanding my network at ARCS Scholar Award celebrations and Frontiers of Science lectures. I presented my data for the first time at an ARCS Scholar symposium and practiced my public speaking skills while introducing my research during a visit of ARCS Foundation members to the UCSF campus. These events have been instrumental in shaping who I am as a scientist today.”

As a scientist, McIntyre is not only advocating for equity and inclusion in the STEM arena; she is also supporting women through her research in the biomedical science program at UCSF. A PhD candidate, McIntyre is focusing on complications that can occur during pregnancy. She is studying epigenetic regulators that cause uterine activation and parturition, or the process from the time labor begins to the time of delivery. Her research will determine why some epigenetic regulators activate too early, causing premature births.

Preterm birth is the global leading cause of death for children under the age of five,” McIntyre notes. “Our hope is that by expanding our fundamental understanding of the labor cascade, we can develop diagnostic tests and enlarge our arsenal of therapeutic targets in an effort to treat labor and birth complications, and enable mothers to carry their pregnancy to full term.”