Christopher Deutschman, UW MSc student, is offering free expertise to STEM students in marginalized groups to help them overcome the excessive hurdles they can face on their learning journey.
“I am offering free assistance to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) students who want help with scientific communication. This offer is aimed at students who consider themselves part of marginalized groups in STEM, including, but not limited to, racialized students, queer students, and disabled students,” Deutschman said.
As a student associating with a minority identity, Deutschman chose to embrace a role in advocacy for his mental wellbeing and stability. His method of support for marginalized students entering STEM is what he refers to as allyship.
“There are always new opportunities to listen, to support, to leverage your skills to help others. I practice allyship because allies have supported me in the past. After all, I want to support others in the present, and because I believe it is a right and crucial thing to do in our work towards a just future,” Deutschman said.
Deutschman references various studies on marginalized students in STEM to make his case. A 2019 study titled Does STEM Stand Out? Examining Racial/Ethnic Gaps in Persistence Across Postsecondary Fields indicates that although Black students enter STEM degrees at similar rates to other racial groups, they are almost 20 per cent more likely to transfer into other fields compared to White students. In a 2018 study, Coming out in STEM: Factors affecting retention of sexual minority STEM students, researchers found that students identifying with sexual minorities are almost 10 per cent more likely to transfer out of STEM fields than their heterosexual counterparts.
“Across Canada, and internationally, we are failing to support students with minority identities. And while these statistics provide just a glimpse at the outcomes, they can’t convey the often-exhausting day-to-day experiences of many of these scientists and engineers,” Deutschman said.
Deutschman mentioned that dwindling numbers of students in STEM is not a result of lacking self-confidence or self-worth of the students.
Rather, it’s that the educational system itself is hostile towards minority students,” Deutrschman said.
Deutschman decided to dedicate his skills and expertise to specifically helping marginalized students entering STEM fields. Throughout his academic career, Deutschman published several journal articles, received several research fellowships, and won poster and presentation awards. He held a National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Canada Graduate Scholarship for his master’s studies and was awarded the doctoral version of the scholarship to pursue his Ph.D. He is currently working on his thesis.
“My thesis work is on the development of novel and sustainably derived antimicrobial nanomaterials – in other words, making new products from eco-friendly materials, and using these products to kill harmful bacteria,” Deutschman said.
Deutschman hopes his allyship will inspire others to leverage their skill set and experiences to help end marginalization in STEM disciplines.
“By taking the initiative ourselves, we open up doors that have been closed, maybe for generations. That in and of itself is incredibly powerful,” Deutschman said.