Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion

We Must Continue Our Work to Defeat All Racial Injustices

Dear Colleagues and Friends: 

Despicable and hateful words can lead to despicable and hateful acts. Clearly, it was only a matter of time before some unbalanced or hateful person, who listened to and embraced the racist, bigoted rants of public officials, distorted social media, or untruthful “news” outlets against our Asian community, committed a heinous crime. Regardless of the underlying motives in the latest tragedy in Georgia or California or New York, a list that is far too long, sadly, this is just the latest in a recent series of hateful acts directed toward the Asian and Pacific Island community. Simply condemning these acts is not enough. All of us must work harder and act to ensure that our friends and colleagues from Asia or with roots in Asia know we are here for them. Further, it is incumbent upon all of us to work even harder to root out the evil of racism and bigotry that pervades our country.  We offer our thoughts and prayers to the families of those directly affected in Georgia, California, and New York as well as to all of our Asian colleagues in the Department of Biochemistry and throughout Duke University who are likely to feel targeted by these despicable acts indirectly but nevertheless, acutely. We are here for you and are available anytime to listen, learn, help and act. 

With warm wishes, 

The Leadership of the Department of Biochemistry, Duke University 

A Note from Leadership on Racial Injustice

Recent events have shown us again the dark forces of injustice, bias, and racism. We see it in the unconscionable and horrific deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and Ahmaud Abery in Georgia. We see it in the continuing and growing list of brutal killings of black and brown Americans, many at the hands of law enforcement officers. And we also see it in the disproportional impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on communities of color due to systemic and structural inequalities.

None of us in leadership can pretend to understand the daily struggles of a black person living under oppression in this country. And we cannot understand what four hundred years of systemic dehumanization and subjugation does to a community. But we do know that as a department and as individuals, we can do more to fight racism and bias and to promote an environment that celebrates diversity, equity, and inclusion for our students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, staff, and the greater community of Durham and North Carolina. Our commitment is yet more necessary given the horrific and damaging rhetoric that emanates from the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, a Branch which has shown no interest in eradicating systemic racism in the United States nor any empathy towards the plight of people of color in this country. Further, we must fight its assault on immigrants and work hard to protect our international students and postdoctoral fellows from harmful and ill-conceived policies. We’re open to your suggestions but we’re not making this your problem to solve—we are actively moving on this ourselves already because we acknowledge there’s a problem and we need to work harder at solving it.

In the days ahead, Dick will preside over a forum that brings members of our department together to share feelings, thoughts, and emotions. We do not have a black or indigenous faculty member in our department and we recognize this to be a major challenge to attaining many of our goals. In the months ahead, we are going to redouble our efforts to recruit, retain, and support BIPOC at the student, post-doc, faculty, and staff administrator levels. At the same time, we will reaffirm our commitment to fight all forms of racism and bias. We will be deliberate in developing an environment that empowers victims of bias and racism to speak up and hold individuals who perpetuate such acts accountable.

Everyone deserves to be sitting at the same table. Everyone deserves to be safe. Everyone belongs here.

Yours sincerely,

Duke Biochemistry Leadership
Dick Brennan, Hashim Al-Hashimi, Meta Kuehn, Mike Boyce

Read a statement including resources from the Biochemistry Graduate Student Council and D&I Committee.  

Leadership Statement on Pride Month

These past weeks have been filled with pain and anguish, as we have been able to witness the continued and targeted homicides of black Americans. If anything positive at all has come from these events, we are finally seeing demonstrations from all over America saying enough is enough. It is time for action. I realize that we are properly focussed on the most current events arising from systemic racism and unconscionable police action, but we should also take time to remember that June is LGBTQ+ Pride month and that this battle for equality still rages on as well.

During Pride month we now celebrate the gains in human rights of the LGBTQ+ community, but we should also remember the beginning of Pride and salute those incredibly brave individuals, including Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman, who with others “rioted” in response to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar on Christopher Street in New York City on 28 June 1969.  Johnson and other early activists, including Craig Rodwell, showed incredible courage and defended their humanity against the onslaught of a bigoted, racist police department. Hence, a community was galvanized and in November 1969 an annual march in NYC was proposed. As a result of their organization and commitment, the first gay pride march (not a parade) took place on Sunday 28 June 1970, appropriately named “Christopher Street Liberation Day”.

And here we are 51 years later looking back at the progress that has been made, but unfortunately also seeing that much still remains to be done for the LGBTQ+ community. Indeed, there have been recent attempts to take away many of these hard-fought for rights that the straight community simply takes for granted. Despite these attempts, just yesterday, 15 June 2020, in a historic victory for the LGBTQ+ community, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status!  This is a tremendous step forward. Through all of this though, we must never forget that LGBTQ+ rights, African American rights, and LatinX rights are equal rights, which are inherent to all Americans. We must push forward constantly to make this happen and also stamp out the growing anti-Asian, xenophobic sentiment that has been fostered by the targeting of the immigration status of Chinese nationals and by referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese flu”, resulting in a backlash against Asian Americans. We must also remember, that in demanding and obtaining equal rights for all, we can re-transform the United States to be the country of hope and promise not only for its own citizens but for those who want to immigrate to this country in order to make a better life for themselves, adding yet more ingredients to the rich cultural diversity of the United States. Diversity makes us better human beings.

With best wishes,

Dick, Mike, Hashim, and Meta

Celebrating our Differences

Duke is dedicated to maintaining a climate of inclusiveness and celebrating our rich and diverse scientific community. To accomplish this, we honor everyone’s background and experiences through events, programs, and initiatives that promote diversity in the classroom, workplace, and community.


In the Department of Biochemistry, we aim to build a truly inclusive community through the following:

Biochemistry Diversity and Inclusion Committee (D&I)

With strong support from the department, the Biochemistry D&I Committee—consisting of PhD students, postdocs, staff, and faculty—promotes a welcoming environment, provides a platform for community outreach, and encourages faculty and student attendance at national conferences for underrepresented minorities in the sciences. The D&I committee also sponsors a departmental postdoc forum where junior faculty share career advice on their recent transitions to faculty positions. This committee always looks for new ideas. Contact Mike Boyce if you'd like more information, want to volunteer, or have program suggestions. 

The current members of the D&I Committee are:

  • Floyd Borden
  • Mike Boyce
  • Abhi Chhetri
  • Brian Coggins
  • Alyssa Florwick
  • Aili Hao  
  • Amanuel Kibrom
  • Meta Kuehn
  • Clariss Limso
  • Erica Washington

Volunteer Opportunities Workshop

Each year, the D&I committee hosts a workshop for staff, faculty, students, and postdocs to give input in how we can better promote science initiatives in our community and to learn about volunteering opportunities in the greater Durham area. Past presentations have included how to participate in educational opportunities in our neighborhood public schools and at the nearby NC Museum of Life Science.

Diversity and Inclusion Events

The Biochemistry Department sponsors activities in and around Durham that have included volunteering at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina and raising funds for the Piedmont Wildlife Center and the NC Museum of Life and Science. The department also co-sponsors a table for Biochemistry students and guests at the annual Ida Stephens Owens Black Tie Dinner hosted by the Bouchet Society.

Diversity and Inclusion Seminar

Biochemistry’s annual D&I-sponsored seminar has brought in nationally recognized scholars who are also experts in addressing the challenge of achieving a departmental representation that reflects our national diversity. In addition to their scientific presentations, these leaders preside over a seminar that challenges the status quo and identifies solutions to help achieve an inclusive and diverse department. Students, faculty, and postdocs are encouraged to engage in fruitful conversations with visiting speakers.

Past speakers have included:

Tracy Johnson, PhD
, Professor Maria Rowena Ross Chair, Cell Biology and Biochemistry
HHMI Investigator and Associate Dean for Inclusive Excellence

Mark Peifer, PhD 
UNC Chapel Hill
, Michael Hooker Distinguished Professor, Department of Biology

Squire Booker, PhD

Penn State, Eberly Distinguished Chair in Science
HHMI Investigator and Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Molecular Biology​

The Biochemistry Graduate Student Council (BGSC)

The BGSC is a monthly forum where select students, the department, and the graduate school work together to discuss and help solve graduate student life issues. The BGSC is composed of five, annually elected members who represent the graduate student body. Three members serve as core BGSC representatives; the fourth member coordinates volunteer and outreach opportunities; while the fifth member is the department's Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC) representative. The council and interested students also discuss upcoming BGSC hosted events.


Graduate initiatives include programs that recruit the most diverse student body and help advance everyone’s success.


BioCoRE is funded in part by an NIH Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) to construct a strong and diverse bioscience community across the School of Medicine, the Graduate School, Trinity College, and the Pratt School of Engineering. Graduate and undergraduate students compete for a slot to be part of Duke BioCoRE, with decisions based on fit with the program’s goals.

BioCoRE's benefits include:

  • Early Start–full stipend paid in August of first year
  • Beginning research and community building during Early Start
  • Enhanced advising and specialized mentoring
  • Funds for scientific conference travel
  • Scientific and career development programs
  • Social gatherings with BioCoRE community
  • Synergy with PhD Graduate Programs

BioCoRE was built to:

  • Promote student development through research experiences, engagement with faculty, and career instruction.
  • Build vertical advising and mentoring relationships between undergraduate, graduate students and faculty in the bioscience community.

In late July/early August the BioCoRE Annual Symposium convenes over 200 renowned faculty from underrepresented groups plus faculty that study minority issues, administrators from North Carolina institutions, and students to:

  • Hear nationally acclaimed speakers address current research topics and diversity programs in science.
  • Showcase student research in oral and poster presentations.
  • Convene discussions on student career development.
  • Provide student workshops on research promotion, optimizing research, mentee relationships, and surviving setbacks.

Bouchet Society

In honor of Dr. Edward Alexander Bouchet, The Duke University Bouchet Society supports underrepresented graduate students in the natural sciences, technology, engineering, and math to advance their academic pursuits and professional efforts. The highlight of each year is the Ida Stephens Owens Black Tie Dinner attracting graduate students from all departments for an evening of food, camaraderie, and inspiration from renowned guest speakers and Duke alumni.


Our Biochemistry faculty and students help mentor SROP minority undergraduates and have helped many to apply to Duke for post-graduate studies.

Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP)

For underrepresented minority undergraduates (in and outside Duke University) interested in pursuing a biological sciences PhD program, Duke SROP provides a summer of mentored research along with a unique social experience. Research comes first, but also included during the 10-week program are game nights, dinners out, shopping excursions, a night at the Durham Bulls, and a tour of the world-renowned Duke Lemur center. SROP students are often matched with current research that’s happening in the Biochemistry department. Over the years, we’ve been happy to welcome many SROP alumni into our graduate program. All underrepresented minorities are encouraged to apply.


The Biochemistry department welcomes postdoctoral researchers from all backgrounds and around the world and provides services that help them acclimate to life at Duke.

Office of Postdoctoral Services

To help our postdocs find a supportive community, get answers to questions about life in Durham, and access career development workshops and advice, Duke built the Office of Postdoctoral Services. It’s a central resource for postdoctoral appointees and serves as a liaison between postdocs, faculty, administrators, and staff. It provides services such as:

  • Orientation Seminars
  • Career Development Programs
  • Social Gatherings
  • Career Preparation


In our commitment to building a diverse community, Duke offers a number of services that help achieve our goal of recruiting faculty with different opinions, experiences and backgrounds.


The School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion fosters a climate where faculty, students, and staff experience a true sense of belonging while thriving and contributing their best work. Its goal is to attract and retain diverse, outstanding talent who are fully engaged and positively impact how we teach, work, learn and serve in an increasingly diverse world. Listen to minority students describe their Duke graduate experience.


The Office for Institutional Equity upholds the university’s equal opportunity and affirmative action, provides diversity and inclusion services, and is where students can lodge complaints and concerns.

Duke Equal Opportunity Statement
Duke University prohibits discrimination and harassment and provides equal employment opportunity without regard to an individual's age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status. Duke is committed to recruiting, hiring, and promoting qualified women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and veterans.
Pursuant to Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, Duke prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any of its educational programs or activities.