On March 2, 2022, Dr. Parvin Bolourani (Outreach, Alumni Engagement, Postdoctoral Affairs & Project Coordinator in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology) and Paula Littlejohn (PhD Candidate in the Finlay lab, Michael Smith Laboratories) received 2021 UBC Science Excellence in Service Awards.
Parvin received the award for creating a positive environment within the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, and demonstrating exceptional leadership in conceiving new activities to engage students, staff, and postdoctoral fellows within our department and beyond. Her tireless work has provided opportunities for career development, and improved the sense of inclusion and wellbeing of members in the UBC science community, especially during the pandemic.
Always adding a critical element of personal attention, Parvin makes an exceptional effort to ensure that people in the department feel supported and are helped with specific needs. She achieves this through contributions such as:
- Postdoc support and development,
- Taking the lead on the department’s efforts to promote Health & Wellbeing and EDI (equity, diversity, and inclusion),
- Promoting inclusion through departmental activities such as symposiums, seminars, and Imagine Day to welcome new students, and
- Creating innovative programs and opportunities for department members, such as career panels, a virtual networking series called “Career Ask Me Anything Café”, and alumni engagement.
Parvin is an important role model and community-builder, whose personal support efforts make a huge difference to everyone in the department of M&I. Congratulations, Parvin!
Paula received the award for outstanding leadership through her original initiative and successful delivery of the “Where are the Black People?” UBC Speaker Series, serving UBC and the community at large.
An exemplary advocate for Black representation in STEM and academia, Paula also serves on the UBC Social Exposome Cluster Steering Committee and Knowledge Translation Working Group. She previously served on the UBC Senate ad hoc committee Academic Diversity and Inclusion (2018-2020) and the MSL EDI Committee (2020-2021). She contributed to the UBC Personalized Medicine Summit (2018), the UBC Microbiome Research Network Symposium (2018), and the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology STEM Literacy Week (2020). Her dedicated service extends to the broader STEM community through the Canadian Black Scientist Network and the Black in Microbiology Association in the USA.
“I see this as an active part of my contribution to increasing representation in STEM – my scholarly activism if you will,” says Paula. “It is indeed a privilege to use my voice and access to create opportunities for the many Black students who will come behind me.”
As a researcher in the Finlay lab, Paula focusses on a form of malnutrition known as micronutrient deficiencies, or “hidden hunger.” The primary aim is to understand the impact of postnatal exposure to micronutrient deficiencies on the host and the gut microbiome.
“It’s interesting that as someone who likes to plan at least five years into the future, I believe where my research will end up is still unfolding,” Paula shares. “In addition to my current training, my educational background/experience in behavioral science, public health, health policy, clinical research, and nutritional science will culminate into an exciting career that doesn’t quite fit into a box and I am ok with that. I think I have matured into a 'systems biology' approach to science and health and I am excited to explore this more deeply.
Furthermore, I expect some of my research and scholarly activism will intersect and involve disrupting the narrative that perpetuates the ‘biologitisizing’ and pathologizing of race. The current practices in science, namely the literature, medical training/education and practice, requires decolonizing and restructuring.”
Congratulations, Paula! Click here for the ful llist of award recipients.
Photos by Leslie Kennah, Communications Coordinator in the Michael Smith Laboratories.