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Diversity in STEM and why it matters

Dr. Mike SummersWhen like-minded students work closely together, positive energy is contagious. Mount Mary presents Dr. Mike Summers, a notable HIV structural researcher and HHMI Investigator at the forefront of efforts to increase diversity among future leaders in science, technology, engineering and related fields. 

STEM and diversity: Are students of color – particularly women - adequately represented among within these professions? Mount Mary University, with an all-women undergraduate student body that is 50 percent diverse, has re-envisioned its approach to technology, incorporating art and design into the initiative, which is known on campus as STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art/design and mathematics). Cheryl Bailey, Dean of the School of Natural and Health Sciences, has put a high priority on recruiting - and retaining - a diverse population of students in the sciences by creating innovative pathways within the curriculum for students to persist in these subject areas.

To that end, Mount Mary University is hosting Dr. Mike Summers, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator (HHMI) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and HIV researcher. He also directs a grant program at UMBC that supports high achieving undergraduates, and it is considered to be at the forefront for providing a path into academic research for groups now underrepresented in STEM. Dr. Summers will present program and the HHMI initiative to replicate the program at other institutions.

Less than 3 percent of Ph.D.’s awarded in science, mathematics and engineering go to African-Americans. The Meyerhoff program has been recognized by the National Science Foundation and The New York Times as a national mode to increase diversity. Scores of representatives from federal agencies, campuses, and corporations across the country have visited UMBC's campus to learn more about the program's success. By assembling such a high concentration of high-achieving students in a tightly knit learning community, students continually inspire one another to do more and better.

Dr. Summers is unraveling the internal architecture of HIV, striving to understand how it and other retroviruses assemble, and how they package their genetic material so that they can infect other cells. Relying on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, he and his team have solved the three-dimensional structures of three proteins that make up the virus, and they are now using this information to decipher the way HIV proteins interact with each other and with the cells they infect. Ultimately his studies could aid in the design of new treatment approaches for AIDS and other human diseases caused by retroviruses.

Learn more and attend:

Seminars from Dr. Mike Summers: Friday, April 8

  • Seminar 1: Meyerhoff Scholars Program: Successful approaches for attracting and retraining a diverse STEM workforce (11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.)
  • Seminar 2: Structure of the HIV-1 RNA Packaging Signal (4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.)