Changing The Paradigm for Women and Minorities in STEM Disciplines

Friday, November 14, 2014 - 2:00pm
Fung Auditorium | Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall
Sheldon Weinbaum, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professsor of Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering

The City College of The City University of New York

Changing The Paradigm for Women and Minorities in STEM Disciplines


Thirty four percent of all 18 to 24 year olds in the U.S. are federally defined underrepresented minorities (URM). This group constitutes 12% of all BS degree recipients in engineering in the U.S. but only 8% of the B.S. degrees in BME and only 4% of the Ph.D.'s. Currently 40% of the new Ph.D.’s in BME are female yet they represent only 20% of the new faculty. At the highest levels of recognition women have been grossly underrepresented in our National Academies in both BME and the Applied Sciences more generally. This lecture will highlight interventions over the past decade to dramatically change this status quo from both a department to national level. In 2002 when the BME Department was started at The City College of New York it was decided to create a department where the tenure track faculty would reflect the diversity of the undergraduate student body which was 50% URM and 50% female at the time. The fledgling department was also awarded one of two grants from NHLBI whose goal was to encourage URM undergraduates to purse graduate education in a life science and potentially a Ph.D. Of particular importance was a novel mentorship program in which every UG NIH Minority Scholar was matched with a Ph.D. student who met with them on a weekly basis for their entire stay at the college from freshman to graduation. This interaction had a remarkable effect on department culture and recruitment whose diversity today is singular among all major STEM departments in the U.S. Currently 57% of the tenure track faculty in BME are female (43%) and or URM (36%), and 70% of the Ph.D. students are female and/or URM. For the past nine years the department has also had highest teaching evaluation in the Grove School of Engineering. This talk will tell the story of how this happened and also the major changes that have occurred in the recruitment of women and URM candidates in the Bioengineering Section of the NAE and the Applied Science Sections of the NAS.


Sheldon Weinbaum is an eminent American biomedical engineer and biofluid mechanician (BAE RPI 1959; MS Applied Physics and Ph.D. Engineering Harvard 1963). He is a CUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering at the The City College of New York. He is one of ten living individuals who is a member of all three U.S. national academies (National Academy of ScienceNational Academy of Engineering andInstitute of Medicine) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was the Founding Director (1994–1999) of the New York Center for Biomedical Engineering, a regional research consortium involving the BME program at The City College and eight of the premier health care institutions in New York City. He has been a lifelong advocate for women and minorities in science and engineering. He was the lead plaintiff and organizer of a class-action lawsuit (Weinbaum vs. Cuomo) charging New York State officials with racially discriminatory funding of its two university systems, CUNY and SUNY, the first CUNY faculty recipient of the Public Service Award of the Fund for the City of New York, and the Inaugural Recipient of the “Diversity Award” of the Biomedical Engineering Society (2009). He is currently Chair of the Selection Committee that chooses the annual Sloan Awardees for the outstanding math and science teachers in the New York City public high schools.