February 28, 2022 | By Krista Licata
Disclaimer: the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the individual author, and not to LabCentral or the author’s employer, organization or committee.
LabCentral launched Ignite in 2021 with a goal harnessing the power of community to boldly address systemic racial and gender under-representation in the life sciences. Through a range of equity-driven programs and a powerful member network of industry, startups, higher ed and nonprofits, LabCentral Ignite connects underrepresented students and innovators to academic, technical skills-building, mentoring, job placement and board and leadership preparation opportunities that fuel biotech diversity and inclusively transform careers.
Since the launch, we’ve continued to expand. We hired diversity and inclusion veteran Gretchen Cook-Anderson in the newly created role of Executive Director. We also appointed two prominent Mass. leaders committed to diversity in life sciences – Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts and senior advisor at Bain Capital, and Kenn Turner, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) – to the Ignite Advisory Board; and we’ve built out some of the main elements of our platform for change. Coming soon!
- The Ignite bioDiversity Network, a membership platform focused on building collaborative energy, sharing best practices and harnessing diverse talent through a job connector, annual Ignite bioDiversity Awards, DEI leadership training, and more
- Leadership & Inclusive Talent (LIT) programs, like Ignite Golden Tickets, and LIT Science Fellows that help to accelerate development of diverse scientific leaders and innovators
- The MoSaIc Innovation Consortium, which brings minority serving institutions together to foster connections to the life sciences industry
We are excited to announce the successful pilot of Career Forge which is part of our LIT pillar, above. It aims to identify exceptional individuals – specifically Black, LatinX, and Indigenous people, women, first-general college students and other historically excluded students and professionals – and place them into well-paying life sciences research roles. We’re proud of our first class of “Forgers,” which was made up of five women of immigrant and first-generation college backgrounds with bachelor and associate degrees and interests ranging from biology and chemistry-based research to clinical research. Since completing the program, Forgers have gone on to accept full-time and co-op positions at both startups and larger biotech companies within our network.
“The program offered exposure to lab and interpersonal skills that I did not receive in school. This is a great experience that taught me a lot about what it is like being in the lab.”
-Michelle Oliveira, Career Forge 2021
Now, we are recruiting applicants for our next cohort. Through the program, Forgers will prepare for professional engagement as research assistants or research associates in R&D labs. The program provides robust exposure to and builds confidence in lab techniques, including cell culture/aseptic technique, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), general lab safety, cleanliness and lab notebook maintenance, and a range of topics around job preparedness.
Career Forge is executed collaboratively by expert educators, workplace coaches and industry professionals. Through approximately 80 hours of virtual and onsite lab instruction, Forgers will interact with trainers from local institutions promoting professional diversity, such as LEAS Lab, Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), the LabCentral team, and other startup and industry scientists.
Forgers will also go through final rounds of job search coaching to bolster their chances of success once they begin making introductions to companies in the LabCentral bioDiversity Network that are aligned with their professional and scientific interests that are seeking to build inclusive company cultures. Career Forge placements receive ongoing support after they are hired to increase the chances of retention and professional growth.
If you’re interested in learning more about Career Forge, our Ignite platform, and how you can become involved, visit https://labcentralignite.org, sign up for the mailing list, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.