The Tolar Lab
Outreach and Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion (JEDI)
Diversity in STEM is critical, as it enhances research creativity and provides opportunities for all. Service and outreach have solidified my desire to inspire young scientists from underrepresented groups and schools with less opportunities to stay in science.
As my research focuses on microbial diversity, I must explain the difference between Bacteria and Archaea every time I introduce my work to someone new – Archaea are similar to Bacteria, in that they are single-celled, but they are different in that their internal machinery is more similar to Eukaryotes like you and me. This can be related to the value of diversity in the classroom and community: without different microbial groups from all three domains of life working together, global biogeochemical cycles would stop.
In STEM fields, leaky pathways (formerly, pipeline) result in demographics at the highest levels not being representative of the students who begin STEM degrees. I recognize the value that diverse perspectives bring as both a mentor and teacher – questions are asked and considered in unexpected ways, leading to new and unique ideas. This importance is in contrast with reality – students from diverse groups continue to be excluded and underrepresented. In science, one’s research and teaching should define their success, yet numerous studies show that ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and other identities can lead to biases against education and career success, and it has become impossible to ignore that the US as a whole has issues with inequality. I believe that academics should do everything possible to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment to promote and encourage scientific growth and success for all, and I have dedicated myself to this task.
Below are some examples of projects and programs I have been involved with or help organize, and my aim is to expand this as I progress in my career.
“Someone Like Me”: An Inclusive Mentoring Program
I co-founded SLM with other Stanford Postdocs. This program is run completely by trainees and aims to give graduate students and postdocs the opportunity to meet scientists who more closely relate to their identity, as that identity is not often represented at the faculty level.
This program is funded with support from the Stanford Vice Provost for Graduate Education & Postdoctoral Affairs Office’s Diversity and Innovation Fund
Out in STEM (oSTEM)
- Served as postdoc liaison (2017-2020)
- Involved in mentorship program for undergraduate and graduate students
- Also helped lead LGBTQ+ Postdoc Group at Stanford, organizing social and community-building events
Stanford University Postdoctoral Association (SURPAS)
- Served as a council member (2015-2020)
- Helped organize Postdoc Symposium at Stanford in 2016 (co-lead), 2017, and 2019.
- Founding member of Diversity Advisory Committee (DAC)
Geokids is an outreach program put on by the School of Earth, Energy, & Environmental Sciences at Stanford that brings a group of 2nd Graders to campus to learn about geoscience through interactive demos involving soils, rocks, and minerals.