Top wins for Biology at the MPLS Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Awards 2021

We are delighted to announce our 2021 winners for the MPLS Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Awards. Every other year, alternating with the University-wide Diversity Awards, we recognise staff and students in MPLS who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to advance ED&I within our communities. This is an important way to showcase the incredible work that our colleagues and students undertake, alongside their research or day jobs, which may otherwise go unnoticed. We are hugely proud to announce that members of our biology departments won against three categories!

Best initiative: BIPOC STEM network

For a successful activity or initiative aimed at increasing equality, diversity and inclusion in a department, group, or subject area.

Victor Ajuwon, Atreyi Chakrabarty, Sara Middleton, and Lauren Rudd received three separate nominations in this category, showing just how successful they have been in creating this Network. Graduate students from Zoology and Pharmacology, Victor, Atreyi, Sara and Lauren founded the BIPOC STEM Network in 2020/21. This Network is an inclusive group of research, academic and administrative staff and postgraduates within the University’s STEM departments who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC), or Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME). The Network aims to promote and support the work of People of Colour within the University and beyond, to create a more diverse and inclusive environment within academia. The Network aims to highlight contributions of People of Colour in STEM, support navigating STEM as a Person of Colour, promote effective allyship and work with the University to implement policy aimed at improving diversity and inclusivity that draws on the experiences and insights of People of Colour.

The BIPOC STEM network team said: “The work achieved by the BIPOC STEM network is truly outstanding, but more than that they are role models. This grassroots initiative is not only helping increase equality, diversity and inclusion amongst current students and staff, but it is inspiring the next generation of BIPOC students to study STEM subjects, consider a future in research, and apply to institutions like Oxford. All this has been achieved by four extremely talented and dedicated graduate students at a time when the university needs it most. I cannot recommend highly enough the BIPOC STEM Network for the category of ‘Best Initiative’.”

Outstanding ED&I Champion - Researcher: Dr Tanesha Allen

An award made to a researcher who has shown outstanding dedication, sustained commitment, and effective leadership in advancing equality, diversity and inclusion. To confirm, this category includes students.

Tanesha recently completed her graduate studies in the department of Zoology. Tanesha’s nomination reads: “During her PhD Tanesha spoke up very clearly calling out a rather out-of-date culture E, D and I culture in her research group. She did this politely, but effectively, and on multiple occasions she spoke up, bravely, and honestly, about some of the challenges that black, female, graduate students at Oxford encounter. I nominate Tanesha for three reasons: 1) bravery of speaking out about her experiences in public fora -- she made a lot of faculty realize how real the issues of race were, even in a department that thought we were doing well. 2) a keenness to engage to help improve things. Tanesha didn't just complain, but she suggested solutions that were sensible. 3) the production of a fantastic report with clear recommendations that the department is implementing. Tanesha has done more than anyone else to help Biology academics appreciate what needed changing, and ways in which these changes could be implemented.  I cannot imagine a more deserving case for this award than Tanesha.”

Thank you, Tanesha, for everything you are doing!

Outstanding ED&I Champion - Researcher: Dr Lucy Taylor

An award made to a researcher who has shown outstanding dedication, sustained commitment, and effective leadership in advancing equality, diversity and inclusion. To confirm, this category includes students.

Lucy Taylor is the MPLS inaugural ED&I Fellow for the Zoology department. Lucy’s nomination reads: “Lucy is a tireless advocate for mental health and equality for early career researchers, and her involvement and activities have made a real difference to all our lives. She is open, honest, resourceful, and extremely dedicated to ED&I. Although I am not in her department, she has been a constant source of inspiration to me and shows me how to be a better advocate for my fellow ECRs both within Statistics and MPLS. I would not be able to do justice to the range of Lucy’s activities that focus on our collective wellbeing - listing them alone would use up the word limit of the nomination - but I will highlight some particularly impactful actions. Within her department, Lucy has single-handedly run the Mentoring and Support scheme for graduate students, including support for the very trying time under lockdown. She organised online socials to combat isolation, including one during the Christmas break. She trained as a mental health first aider. She has written multiple Nature Career columns and is active on social media about what it really means to go through the ECR journey. As an ECR representative, one of her first actions was to push for a no detriment policy for postdocs.”

Thank you, Lucy, for your continued dedication to ED&I. 

For the full list of winners, please visit: