“Highlighting” the Fight Against Ebola

Posted By Jenn

Kevin Tyan, Jason Kang, and Katherine Jin, founders of Kinnos. (Photo credit: Columbia Engineering/Tim Lee Photographers)

By Guest Contributor: Andrew Cha

In 2014, the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone suffered the worst outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus since the disease’s discovery in 1976. Due to local poverty and the lack of public health infrastructure, the pandemic spread quickly, with one thousand new cases every week, twenty-eight thousand cases in total, and over eleven thousand deaths.

The Ebola epidemic triggered a worldwide response. The United States committed to the largest sum for assistance and relief efforts of any country with its appropriation of 5.4 billion dollars to fight the outbreak. The US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Center for Diseases Control (CDC), and the Department of Defense were all mobilized to set up a response infrastructure on the ground to contain the outbreak. At the international level, the United Nations and the World Health Organization coordinated a global response to the Ebola outbreak, designating it the “number one global crisis for the United Nations.” The World Bank also pledged a two hundred thirty million dollar aid package for affected countries in West Africa.

The sheer scale of the US and UN response to the Ebola crisis was critical to getting the pandemic under control, but some of the most innovative and beneficial proposals to combat the epidemic arose from the minds of some innovative Asian-American millennials. The United States Agency for International Development sponsored a “Fighting Ebola Grand Challenge,” in 2014 in which citizens from across the nation could propose new ideas to battle Ebola. Three Columbia University students, Jason Kang, Kevin Tyan, and Katherine Jin, were selected from over fifteen hundred applicants, for their invention called “Highlight.”

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UCLA Shooting Suspect Identified: Thoughts On Race, Violence, and Graduate Studies

Posted By Jenn

Mainak Sarkar, in an undated photo. (Photo credit: UCLA)
Mainak Sarkar, in an undated photo. (Photo credit: UCLA)

Like many, when I heard that the UCLA campus was on lock-down yesterday due to an on-campus shooting, I braced myself for the worst. Many have scoffed that the spectacle of the mass shooting has become commonplace in today’s America.

Even so, I felt a growing despair as tweets began rolling in from students sheltering in place at UCLA yesterday. There is no story of mass violence that ends well: each is a gruesome spectacle of horror and tragedy, inevitably committed by a person who made the unforgivable decision to weigh their own private angst over the lives of the innocent.

But, yesterday’s events at UCLA gave me pause for extra concern. UCLA is one of the more racially diverse campuses in the United States with over one-third of its undergraduates self-identifying as Asian American or Pacific Islander. It is home to the nation’s largest Asian American Studies departments. I felt certain: a shooting at UCLA was almost certain to reverberate through the AAPI community in unpredictable ways.

I was saddened to learn this morning that — despite early reports that the shooter was a White male — Los Angeles police confirmed the identity of the shooter as former UCLA Mechanical Engineering graduate student Mainak Sarkar, a 38-year-old Bengali American scientist who received his  doctorate in 2013 and his US permanent residency in 2014. Sarkar is suspected of having killed two victims — his ex-wife, Ashley Hasti who was found dead in Hasti’s home in Minnesota, and his former graduate mentor, Prof. William Klug, who was shot in Klug’s office on the UCLA campus — before Sarkar took his own life.

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Asian American Adolescents Want To Talk To Us About Sex

Posted By Jenn

(Photo Credit: iStock)
(Photo Credit: iStock)

A study that describes itself as the first to “specifically examine Asian American adolescents’ beliefs regarding discussions of sexual health between health care providers and Asian American adolescents” reports that Asian American youth have a lot of opinions about sex. Specifically, young Asian Americans stress that inadequate communication between themselves and their parents and healthcare providers compromises their access to adequate sexual education.

Researchers interviewed twenty young Asian Americans between 14 and 18 years old (median age was 16.7), with an even split between self-identified male and female respondents. Interviewees included Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino, Thai, Korean and Laotian American teenagers mostly born in the United States.

In talking with these Asian American young people, investigators learned that many were dissatisfied with their own education on sexual health, and were motivated to learn more. Unfortunately, however, most of the adolescents expressed that their sources of knowledge on sex were limited: only 40% reported having had any conversation with a parent about sexual health. More shockingly, only 15% had ever discussed sexually transmitted diseases with a healthcare provider, and only 5% had ever talked to their doctors about sex, contraception, or pregnancy.

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Study Recruiting Asian American Male Respondents To Explore Experiences of Gendered Racism

Posted By Jenn

Justin Kim, the first Asian American male model on America's Next Top Model. (Photo credit: Matthew Vita)
Justin Kim, the first Asian American male model on America’s Next Top Model. (Photo credit: Matthew Vita)

A study being conducted by a doctoral student of Counseling Psychology at Indiana University under the training of Dr. Joel Wong is recruiting survey respondents to better understand how gendered racism might uniquely affect Asian American men. The student running the study — Tao Liu — has asked that I help publicize this work on the blog, in hopes of reaching out to a broad range of study participants.

I think this study — which I confirmed is registered with Indiana University – Bloomington’s Institutional Board (IRB #1503060816) — is very important. Our community’s nuanced relationship with racism and gender identity impacts our self-identity, and even contributes to the heightened prevalence of stress, anxiety and depression within our community. Yet, the experiences of Asian American men (and women) with regard to race and gender remain woefully understudied and under-appreciated in academic research.

This study offers a necessary opportunity to explore and understand the complex self-identity of Asian American men. As such, I strongly encourage any readers who think they fit the demographics of the study’s desired recruits to participate.

Please see the full  recruiting notice after the jump.

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Yes, Workplace Bias in STEM is Real: Whopping 100% of WOC Scientists Report Facing Racialized Gender Discrimination

Posted By Jenn


Last year, I wrote an overview about the obstacles that Asian American women in science, technology, engineering & mathematics (STEM) fields face. In brief, several studies have now revealed that the bamboo ceiling is more severe for Asian American female scientists than it is for men — despite similar graduation rates and qualifications, Asian American women endure greater obstacles towards grant funding and promotions, resulting in profound delays in career promotion within 15 years following award of an advanced degree. This trend is common to most women of colour scientists.

Now, a new study by investigators at UC Hastings, Columbia and Emory (“Double Jeopardy? Gender Bias Against Women of Color in STEM“) has shed some light on the workplace environment that women in STEM face, which may contribute to this persistent glass ceiling.

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