Researchers bringing diversity to STEM with new program


OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A group of Oklahoma researchers are teaming up with a local university in order to increase diversity in STEM classes and careers.

“We’re really excited to help change the face of science,” said Courtney Greenwood, with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. 

For OMRF, partnering with Langston University is one step toward that goal. 

This summer, they kicked off their biomedical research scholars program. 

“It’s a program that’s really, really something that’s going to be very meaningful for students and have a huge impact, I believe, on diversity in STEM, especially here in the state of Oklahoma,” said Byron Quinn, the chairperson for Biology at Langston. 

“I didn’t think I could do it. Research seems like a lot, but here I am now,” said one of the first students in the new program, Andrianna Buxton. 

Buxton is one of six students in the first class. She and her classmates get hands-on experience alongside OMRF researchers. 

“At my age, it’s really important to know what you want to do and what you don’t want to do,” said Buxton. 

“They’re actually working on real research problems day-to-day,” said Greenwood. 

The focus of this program is more than a summer gig. 

The foundation is trying to improve diversity within its own workforce and the STEM community. 

A 2018 study by PEW Research shows the Black community makes up only 9% of STEM jobs in our country.

“It’s really important to have that diversity to attack problems from all different sides and bring in different perspectives,” said Greenwood. 

Not only are different perspectives crucial in the world of research, but they also help advance projects. 

“We’re able to move projects along a lot faster and farther when we can bring in different ideas,” said Quinn. 

Both OMRF and Langston officials say getting the students involved early could help keep them in our state long-term. 

“To give them opportunities here so they can see there is a future for them in Oklahoma,” said Greenwood. 

“Hopefully, this will encourage more people of color to come to OMRF or the STEM world in general,” added Buxton. 

For more information on the program, visit OMRF’s website.

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