Sociocultural Barriers in STEM

Course Co-Director: Sushmita Mukherjee, PhD, MS, Associate Professor of Research in Biochemistry; Co-Director, Microscopy and Image Analysis Core Facility; Diversity Champion, Departments of Biochemistry and Cell Biology

Course Co-Director: Monica L. Guzman, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology in Medicine; Department of Pharmacology; Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine

Course Consultants: Corrie Moreau, PhD, Professor, Arthropod Biosystematics & Biodiversity, CU-I; My Linh H. Nguyen-Novotny, Assistant Director, Education Programmatic Development, Clinical Translational Science Center; Staff Equity Inclusion Council Member, WCM

Teaching Assistant(s): Josue Barnes | PhD Candidate | Hajirasouliha Lab
Physiology, Biophysics, and Systems Biology
President of the Tri-Institutional Minority Society

Current research suggests that unintended biases in decision-making, "implicit bias," may contribute to disparities by shaping researcher behavior in ways that could produce or perpetuate differences in recruitment, experience and retention outcomes. Thus, this course is both timely and relevant within current educational pedagogy and social justice awareness. The course is designed to give graduate students an introduction to sociological literature surrounding inequities in STEM. We will review the origins of implicit bias, racism, sexism, and exclusion in STEM as well as the data and bias against certain populations, and also present bias-reducing strategies to achieve equity and inclusion in STEM.

By the end of this course, students will have learned:

  • To identify types of systemic inequities in STEM
  • To understand and analyze how sociological theory and principles intersect with the higher educational system and scientific workforce
  • Terminology, trends, resources, and tools for understanding sociocultural barriers
  • To identify and propose actions that can be implemented as individuals, as well as steps institutions can take, to decrease bias and promote equity and inclusion. 


Course Design:

The course directors will assign reading material relating to the lecture prior the presentation. The assigned reading will be primarily composed of reviews or journal articles, but other material (video clips, book chapters or news articles) may be assigned if appropriate. Students are expected to read all assigned material before discussion. Students that are formally enrolled in the course will sign up for a week/topic. Those responsible for the week’s topic will work together to come up with a list of discussion questions based on the assigned readings/media. (These topics will only include those that are being taught/facilitated by the course directors, and not the ones where invited lecturers are presenting on a topic.) During lectures, those responsible for the week’s topic will provide an introductory presentation. This will be followed by discussion either as a large group or in several smaller groups (depending on class size and subject). The course directors will monitor the rooms and moderate the conversation only if necessary. During the weeks that outside presenters are offering the lecture, the class will be formatted according to what works best for them for those weeks.

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