2022-23 SciTech and Human Rights FutureGen Scholars to Pursue Projects on DEI, Disability and DNA – AAAS

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The AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition has announced the 2022-23 Science and Human Rights FutureGen Scholars, an initiative that supports undergraduate and graduate students as they pursue a project on their campus or local community at the intersection of science, technology and human rights.

The following students will receive a stipend and will partner with a volunteer mentor to carry out their goals:

  • Julia Bauer and Hana Kamran, undergraduate students at Davidson College, for their project “D4: Data-Driven Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at Davidson College.”
  • Zainub Dhanani, a graduate student at Stanford University College of Medicine, for her project “Disability Equity and Inclusion in Healthcare and Medical Education.”
  • Amber Mundy, a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University for her project “East Marshall Street Well Project: Crania and Mandible DNA Sequencing.”

Since the 2009 launch of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition – a network of scientific and engineering membership organizations that have found a role for scientists and engineers in service to human rights – the group has sought to include undergraduate and graduate students in their activities. In 2014, the Coalition launched an essay contest to spotlight student work, an initiative complemented by the launch of the FutureGen Scholars program in 2021 to directly support students as they undertake hands-on projects related to science and human rights.

Clockwise from left, Julia Bauer, Hana Kamran, Amber Mundy and Zainub Dhanani are the 2022-2023 SciTech and Human Rights FutureGen Scholars.

“The AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition is very pleased to be supporting these projects,” said Theresa Harris, J.D., director of the Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program at AAAS, which serves as the Coalition’s Secretariat. “These students are future leaders at the intersections of science, technology, and human rights and we look forward to supporting their personal and professional growth in the years to come.”

Bauer and Kamran will collaborate on a project to support existing diversity, equity, inclusivity and justice (DEIJ) initiatives at Davidson College by improving student and faculty access to data. Their initiative, called D4, will launch a website to collect and transmit surveys related to DEIJ issues such as student experiences of discrimination and retention of marginalized students.

“It is clear that without data collection and accessibility, students’ needs will remain underrecognized. As an independent, student-led initiative, D4 will empower us to perform an objective assessment of disparities on campus,” wrote Bauer and Kamran in their proposal.

Dhanani plans to expand the impact of Medical Students for Disability and Chronic Illness, a network she founded to support medical students with disabilities and chronic illness, increase the accessibility of medical education and improve health equity for patients with disabilities.

As a FutureGen Scholar, she aims to host monthly advocacy events with disability justice and healthcare experts – and to make those events accessible with live captioning and ASL interpretation. She also plans to offer training and mentorship opportunities and expand several research projects related to accessibility in medical education.

“Through the SciTech Human Rights FutureGen Scholars Program, I hope to continue to expand my passion for disability rights in healthcare through this powerful combination of research, advocacy and education,” Dhanani said.

Mundy’s planned project has its roots in the 1990s, when human remains and medical artifacts dating back from before the Civil War were excavated from a well during construction at Virginia Commonwealth University. The remains were subsequently tentatively identified through anthropometrics as belonging largely to people of African descent. Grave robbing by medical students and educators – especially of Black cadavers – was a common practice during the 19th century.

She plans to use scientific techniques in service of “restoring the dignity to individuals whose remains were stolen from their resting place,” using DNA sequencing technology to identify the biogeographic ancestry and phenotypic characteristics , which will also provide other genetic markers used to reassociate the remains of unique individuals: out of a commingled assemblage.

Mundy notes that her project’s chief goal is “uplifting the individuals and their communities that were wronged.” In addition to focusing on respectful handling of the remains, she plans to develop educational materials on medical racism and involve local youth in her project.

The Scholars’ proposals were reviewed by experts in science, technology and human rights who are involved in Coalition activities. The 2022-23 Scholars were selected by the Coalition’s Steering Committee based on the creativity and achievability of their project in service of human rights objectives through the use of science and technology.

The FutureGen Scholars initiative is a testament to the impact of individual philanthropic donors. Each project receives a $5,000 stipend, made possible by donors to the AAAS – Andrew M. Sessler Fund for Science, Education, and Human Rights and supported by individuals, including Art Kendall and Jeffrey H. Toney.

Applications for the next round of FutureGen Scholars will open in spring 2023. Prospective scholars can learn more from a FAQ and a recorded webinar.